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GUESSES AT TRUTH: 

BY 

TWO BROTHERS. 



MdvTis apiaros octtis fiKa^ei KaXcoy. 

The best divine is he who well divines. 



FROM THE FIFTH LONDON EDITION. 



BOSTON: 
TICKNOR AND FIET. DS. 



University Press, Cambridge : 
Ekctrotyped and Printed by Welch, Bigelow, & Co. 



mi 



TO WILLIAM WOEDSWOETH. 

My honoured Friend, 

The favour I have always experienced from you 
emboldens me to address you publicly by this name. 
For more than twenty years I have cherisht the wish 
of offering some testimony of my gratitude to him by 
whom my eyes were opened to see and enjoy the world 
of poetry in nature and in books. In this feeling, he, 
who shared all my feelings, fully partook. You knew 
my brother ; and though he was less fortunate* than I 
have been, in having fewer opportunities of learning 
from your living discourse, you could not deny him that 
esteem and affection, with which all delighted to regard 
him. Your writings were among those he prized the 
most : and unless this little work had appeared anony- 
mously when it first came out, he would have united 
with me in dedicating it to you. 

Then too would another name have been associated 
with yours, — the name of one to whom we felt an 
equal and like obligation, a name which, I trust, will 
ever be coupled with yours in the admiration and love 
of Englishmen, — the name of Coleridge. You and he 



iv 



TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH. 



came forward together in a shallow, hard, worldly age, 

— an age alien and almost averse from the higher and 
more strenuous exercises of imagination and thought, 

— as the purifiers and regenerators of poetry and phi- 
losophy. It was a great aim; and greatly have you 
both wrought for its accomplishment. Many, among 
those who are now England's best hope and stay, will 
respond to my thankful acknowledgement of the bene- 
fits my heart and mind have received from you both. 
Many will echo my wish, for the benefit of my country, 
that your influence and his may be more and more 
widely diffused. Many will join in my prayer, that 
health and strength of body and mind may be granted 
to you, to complete the noble works which you have 
still in store, so that men may learn more worthily to 
understand and appreciate what a glorious gift God 
bestows on a nation when He gives them a poet. 

Had this work been dedicated to you then, it might 
have pleased you more to see your great friend's name 
beside your own. The proof of my brother's regard too 
would have endeared the offering. Then, — if you will 
allow me to quote a poem, which, from its faithful 
expression of fraternal love, has always sounded to me 
like the voice of my own heart, — " There were two 
springs which bubbled side by side. As if they had been 
made that they might be Companions for each other." 
But now for a while that blessed companionship has 
been interrupted : " One has disappeared : The other, 
left behind, is flowing still." Yet, small as the tribute 



TO WILLIAM WORDSWORTH. 



V 



is, and although it must come before you without these 
recommendations, may you still accept it in considera- 
tion of the reverence which brings it; and may you 
continue to think with your wonted kindness 

Of your affectionate Servant, 

Julius Charles Hare. 

Hekstmoxceux, January, 1838. 



TO THE EEADEE. 



I HERE present you with a few suggestions, the fruits, 
alas ! of much idleness. Such of them as are distin- 
guisht by some capital letter, I have borrowed from my 
acuter friends. My own are little more than glimmer- > 
ings, I had almost said dreams, of thought : not a word 
in them is to be taken on trust. 

If then I am addressing one of that numerous class, 
who read to be told what to think, let me advise you to 
meddle with the book no further. You wish to buy a 
house ready furnisht : do not come to look for it in a 
stonequarry. But if you are building up your opinions 
for yourself, and only want to be provided with materi- 
als, you may meet with many things in these pages to 
suit you. Do not despise them for their want of name 
and show. Remember what the old author says, that 
" even to such a one as I am, an idiota or common per- 
son, no great things, melancholizing in woods and quiet 
places by rivers, the Goddesse herself Truth has often- 
times appeared." 

Reader, if you weigh me at all, weigh me patiently ; 
judge me candidly ; and may you find half the satisfac- 
tion in examining my Guesses, that I have myself had 
in making them. 



viii 



TO THE READER. 



Authors usually do not think about writing a preface, 
until they have reacht the conclusion ; and with reason. 
For few have such steadfastness of purpose, and such 
definiteness and clear foresight of understanding, as to 
know, when they take up their pen, how soon they shall 
lay it down again. The foregoing paragraphs were 
written some months ago : since that time this little 
book has increast to more than four times the bulk then 
contemplated, and withal has acquired two fathers 
instead of one. The temptations held out by the free- 
dom and pliant aptness of the plan, — the thoughtful 
excitement of lonely rambles, of gardening, and of 
other like occupations, in which the mind has leisure to 
muse during the healthful activity of the body, with the 
fresh, wakeful breezes blowing round it, — above all, 
intercourse and converse with those, every hour in 
whose society is rich in the blossoms of present enjoy- 
ment, and in the seeds of future meditation, in whom 
too the Imagination delightedly recognises living real- 
ities goodlier and fairer than the fairest and goodliest 
visions, so that pleasure kindles a desire in her of por- 
traying what she cannot hope to surpass, — these causes, 
happening to meet together, have occasioned my becom- 
ing a principal in a work, wherein I had only lookt for- 
ward to being a subordinate auxiliary. The letter u, 
with which my earlier contributions were markt, has for 
distinction's sake continued to be affixt to them. As 
our minds have grown up together, have been nourisht 
in great measure by the same food, have sympathized in 
their affections and their aversions, and been shaped 
reciprocally by the assimilating influences of brotherly 
communion, a family likeness will, I trust, be perceiv- 
able throughout these volumes, although perhaps with 
such differences as it is not displeasing to behold in the 



TO THE READER. 



ix 



children of the same parents. And thus I commit this 
book to the world, with a prayer that He, to whom so 
much of it, if I may not say the whole, is devoted, will, 
if He think it worthy to be employed in His service, 
render it an instrument of good to some of His chil- 
dren. May it awaken some one to the knowledge of 
himself ! May it induce some one to think more kindly 
of his neighbour ! May it enlighten some one to behold 
the footsteps of God in the Creation ! u. 

May 17th, 1827. 



In this new edition the few remarks found among my 
brother's papers, suitable to the work, have been, or 
will be incorporated. Unfortunately for the work they 
are but few. Soon after the publication of the first 
edition, he gave up guessing at Truth, for the higher 
office of preaching Truth. How faithfully he discharged 
that office, may be seen in the two volumes of his Ser- 
mons. And now he has been raised from the earth to 
the full fruition of that Truth, of which he had first 
been the earnest seeker, and then the dutiful servant 
and herald. 

My own portion of the work has been a good deal 
enlarged. On looking it over for the press, I found 
much that was inaccurate, more that was unsatisfactory. 
Many thoughts seemed to need being more fully de- 
velopt. Ten years cannot pass over one's head, least of 
all in these eventful times, without modifying sundry 
opinions. A change of position too brings a new hori- 
zon, and new points of view. And when old thoughts 
are awakened, it is with old recollections : a long train 
of associations start up ; nor is it easy to withstand the 
pleasure of following them out. Various however as 
1* 



X 



TO THE READER. 



are the matters discust or touclit on in the following 
pages, I would fain hope that one spirit will be felt to 
breathe through them. It would be a delightful reward, 
if they may help the young, in this age of the Confusion 
of Thoughts, to discern some of those principles which 
infuse strength and order into men's hearts and minds. 
Above all would I desire to suggest to my readers, how 
in all things, small as well as great, profane as well as 
sacred, it behoves us to keep our eyes fixt on the Star 
which led the Wise Men of old, and by which alone can 
any wisdom be guided, from whatsoever part of the 
intellectual globe, to a place where it will rejoice ivith 
exceeding great joy. 

J. C. H. 

January GiJi, 1838. 



FIRST SERIES. 



Xpvo-ov 01 bi^rjixevoi, cf)r}(Tiv 'HpaKXcLTos, yrjv TroWrjv opvaaovaiy kol 
evplcTKOvariP oXtyov. — Clem. Alex. Strom. IV. 2^ p. 565. 

As voung men, when they knit and shape perfectly, do seldom grow to a 
further stature ; so knowledge, while it is in aphorisms and observations, it is 
in groAvth ; but when it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may per- 
chance be further polished and illustrated, and accommodated for use and 
practice ; but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance. — Bacon, Advance- 
ment of Learning, B. I.. 



ADVEETISEMENT TO THE THIED EDITION. 



This third edition is little else than a reprint of the second, with 
the addition of a quotation here and there in support of opinions pre- 
viously exprest, and with the insertion of some half a dozen passages, 
partly to vindicate or to correct those opinions, partly to enforce 
them by reference to later events, partly to prevent their being 
misconstrued in behalf of certain errours which have recently be- 
come current. 



October 6th, 1847. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



The virtue of Paganism was strength : the virtue of Chris- 
tianity is obedience. 

Man without religion is the creature of circumstances : Re- 
ligion is above all circumstances, and will lift him up above 
them. 



Moral prejudices are the stopgaps of virtue : and, as is the 
case with other stopgaps, it is often more difficult to get either 
out or in through them, than through any other part of the 
fence. 



A mother should desire to give her children a superabundance 
of enthusiasm, to the end that, after they have lost all they are 
sure to lose in mixing with the world, enough may still remain 
to prompt and support them through great actions. A cloak 
should be of three-pile, to keep its gloss in wear. 



The heart has often been compared to the needle for its con- 
stancy : has it ever been so for its variations ? Yet were any 
man to keep minutes of his feelings from youth to age, what a 
table of variations would they present ! how numerous ! how 



14 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



diverse ! and how strange ! This is just what we find in the 
writings of Horace. If we consider his occasional effusions, — 
and such they almost all are, — as merely expressing the piety, 
or the passion, the seriousness, or the levity of the moment, we 
shall have no difficulty in accounting for those discrepancies in 
their features, which have so much puzzled professional com- 
mentators. Their very contradictions prove their truth. Or 
could the face even of Ninon de I'Enclos at seventy be just 
what it was at seventeen ? Nay, was Cleopatra before Augus- 
tus the same as Cleopatra with Antony ? or Cleopatra with 
Antony the same as with the great Julius ? 

The teachers of youth in a free country should select those 
books for their chief study, — so far, I mean, as this world is 
concerned, — which are best adapted to foster a spirit of manly 
freedom. The duty of preserving the liberty, which our ances- 
tors, through God's blessing, won, establisht, and handed down 
to us, is no less imperative than any commandment in the sec- 
ond table ; if it be not the concentration of the whole. And is 
this duty to be learnt from the investigations of science ? Is it 
to be pickt up in the crucible ? or extracted from the proper- 
ties of lines and numbers ? I fear there is a moment of broken 
lights in the intellectual day of civilized countries, when, among 
the manifold refractions of Knowledge, Wisdom is almost lost 
sight of. Society in time breeds a number of mouths which 
Avill not consent to be entertained without a corresponding vari- 
ety of dishes, so that unity is left alone as an inhospitable singu- 
larity ; and many things are got at any way, rather than a few 
in the right way. But "howsoever these things are thus in 
men's depraved judgements and affections," would we imbibe the 
feelings, the sentiments, and the principles which become the 
inheritors of England's name and glory, we must abide by the 
springs of which our ancestors drank. Like them, we must 
nourish our minds by contemplating the unbending strength of 
purpose and uncalculating self-devotion which nerved and ani- 
mated the philosophic and heroic patriots of the Heathen workl : 
and we shall then blush, should Christianity, with all her addi- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH 



15 



tional incentives, have shone on our hearts without kindling a 
zeal as steady and as pure. 

Is not our mistress, fair Religion, 

As worthy of all our heart's devotion, 

As Virtue was to that first blinded age ? 

As we do them in means, shall they surpass 

Us in the end ? Donne, Satires, iii. 5. 

• 

The threatenings of Christianity are material and tangible. 
They speak of and to the senses ; because they speak of and to 
the sensual and earthly, in character, intellect, and pursuits. 
The promises of Christianity, on the other hand, are addresst 
to a different class of persons, — to those who love, which comes 
after fear, — to those who have begun to advance in goodness, — 
to those who are already in some measure delivered from the 
thraldom of the body. But, being spoken of heaven to the 
heavenly-minded, how could they be other than heavenly ? 

The fact then, that there is nothing definite, and little invit- 
ing or attractive, except to the eye of Faith, in the Christian 
representation of future bliss, instead of being a reasonable 
objection to its truth, is rather a confirmation of it. And so 
perhaps thought Selden, who remarks in his Table- Talk : 
" The Turks tell their people of a heaven where there is a 
sensible pleasure, but of a hell where they shall suffer they 
don't know tvhat. The Christians quite invert this order : they 
tell us of a hell where we shall feel sensible pain, but of a 
heaven where we shall enjoy we can't tell what." l. 



Why should not distant parishes interchange their appren- 
tices ? so that the lads on their return home might brino- 
back such improvements in agriculture and the mechanical 
arts, as they may have observed or been taught during their 
absence. e. 

A practice of the sort was usual two centuries ago, and still 
exists in Germany, and other parts of the Continent. 

The first thing we learn is Meum, the last is Tuum. None 
can have lived among children without noticing the former 



16 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



fact ; few have associated with men and not remarkt the 
latter. 



To address the prejudices of our hearers is to argue with 
them in short-hand. But it is also more : it is to invest our 
opinion with the probability of prescription, and by occupying 
the understanding to attack the heart. 

• 

The ancients dreaded death : the Christian can only fear 
dying. 

A person should go out upon the water on a fine day to a 
short distance from a beautiful coast, if he would see Nature 
really smile. Never does she look so joyous, as when the sun 
is brightly reflected by the water, while the waves are rippling 
gently, and the scene receives life and animation here and there 
from the glancing transit of a row-boat, and the quieter motion 
of a few small vessels. But the land must be well in sight ; 
not only for its own sake, but because the vastness and awful- 
ness of a mere sea-view would ill sort with the other parts of 
the gay and glittering prospect. 

The second Punic war was a struggle between Hannibal and 
the Roman people. Its event proved that the good sense and 
spirit of a nation, when embodied in institutions, and exerted 
with perseverance, must ultimately exhaust and overpower 
the resources of a single mind, however excellent in genius 
and prowess. 

The war of Sertorius, the Roman Hannibal, is of the same 
kind, and teaches the same lesson. 



Nothing short of extreme necessity will induce a sensible 
man to change all his servants at once. A new set coming to- 
gether fortuitously are sure to cross and jostle . . like the 
Epicurean atoms, I was going to say ; but no, unlike the silent 
atoms, they have the faculty of claiming and complaining ; and 
they exert it, until the family is distracted with disputes about 
the limits of their several offices. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



17 



But after a household has been set in order, there is Httle or 
no evil to apprehend from minor changes. A new servant on 
arriving finds himself in the middle of a system : his place is 
markt out and assigned ; the course of his business is set 
before him ; and he falls into it as readily as a new wheel- 
horse to a mail, when his collar is to the pole, and the coach is 
starting. 

It is the same with those great families, which we call 
nations. To remould a government and frame a constitution 
anew, are works of the greatest difficulty and hazard. The 
attempt is likely to fail altogether, and cannot succeed thor- 
oughly under very many years. It is the last desperate 
resource of a ruined people, a staking double or quits with 
evil, and almost giving it the first game. But still it is a 
resource. We make use of cataplasms to restore suspended 
animation ; and Burke himself might have tried Medea's kettle 
on a carcass. 

Be that, however, as it may, from judicious subordinate 
reforms good, and good only, is to be lookt for. Nor are 
their benefits limited to the removal of the abuse, which their 
author designed to correct. No perpetual motion, God be 
praised ! has yet been discovered for free governments. For 
the impulse which keeps them going, they are indebted mainly 
to subordinate reforms ; now, by the exposure of a particular 
dehnquency, spreading salutary vigilance through a whole 
administration ; now, by the origination of some popular im- 
provement from without, leading, — if there be any certainty 
in party motives, any such things in ambitious men as policy 
and emulation, — to the counter-adoption of numerous meliora- 
tions from within, which would else have been only dreamt 
of as impossible. 

As a little girl was playing round me one day with her 
white frock over her head, I laughingly called her Pishashee, 
the name which the Indians give to their white devil. The 
child was delighted with so fine a name, and ran about the 
house crying to every one she met, I am the Pishashee, lam 

B 



18 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



the Pishashee. Would she have done so, had she been wrapt 
in black, and called witch or devil instead ? No ; for, as 
usual, the reality was nothing, the sound and colour every- 
thing. 

But how many grown-up persons are running about the 
world, quite as anxious as the little girl was to get the name 
of Pishashee ! Only she did not understand it. 



True modesty does not consist in an ignorance of our merits, 
but in a due estimate of them. Modesty then is only another 
name for self-knowledge ; that is, for the absence of ignorance 
on the one subject which we ought to understand the best, as 
well from its vast importance to us, as from our continual 
opportunities of studying it. And yet it is a virtue. 

But what, on second thoughts, are these merits? Jeremy 
Taylor tells us, in his Life of Christ : " Nothing but the innu- 
merable sins which we have added to what we have received. 
For we can call nothing ours, but such things as we are 
ashamed to own, and such things as are apt to ruin us. Ev- 
erything besides is the gift of God; and for a man to exalt 
himself thereon is just as if a wall on which the sun reflects, 
should boast itself against another that stands in the shadow." 
Considerations upon Christ's Sermon on Humility. 

After casting a glance at our own weaknesses, how eagerly 
does our vanity console itself with deploring the infirmities of 
our friends! T. 



It is as hard to know when one is in Paris, as when one is 
out of London. r. 

The first is the city of a great king; the latter, of a great 
people. M. 



When the moon, after covering herself with darkness as in 
sorrow, at last throws oflP the garments of her widowhood, she 
does not expose her beauty at once barefacedly to the eye of 
man, but veils herself for a time in a transparent cloud, till by 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



19 



degrees she gains courage to endure the gaze and admiration 
of beholders. 



To those whose god is honour, disgrace alone is sin. 

Some people carry their hearts in their heads ; very many 
carry their heads in their hearts. The difficulty is to keep 
them apart, and yet both actively working together. a. 

Life may be defined to be the power of self-augmentation, or 
of assimilation, not of self-nurture ; for then a steam-engine 
over a coalpit might be made to live. 



Philosophy, like everything else, in a Christian nation should 
be Christian. We throw away the better half of our means, 
when we neglect to avail ourselves of the advantages which 
starting in the right road gives us. It is idle to urge that, 
unless we do this, antichristians will deride us. Curs bark at 
gentlemen on horseback; but who, except a hypochondriac, 
ever gave up riding on that account? 

In man's original state, before his soul had been stupefied by 
the Fall, his moral sensitiveness was probably as acute as his 
physical sensitiveness is now; so that an evil action, from its 
irreconcilableness with his nature, would have inflicted as much 
pain on the mind, as a blow causes to the body. By the Fall 
this fineness of moral tact was lost ; — Conscience, the voice of 
God within us, is at once its relic and its evidence ; — and we 
were left to ourselves to discover what is good ; though we still 
retain a desire of good, when we have made out what it con- 
sists in. 



They who disbelieve in virtue, because man has never been 
found perfect, might as reasonably deny the sun, because it is 
not always noon. 



Two persons can hardly set up their booths in the same 



20 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



quarter of Vanity Fair, without interfering with, and therefore 
disHking each other. b. 

Fickleness in women of the world is the fault most likely to 
result from their condition in society. The knowing both what 
weaknesses are the most severely condemned, and what good 
qualities the most highly prized, in the female character, by 
our sex as well as their own, must needs render them desirous 
of pleasing generally, to the exclusion, so far as Nature will 
permit, of strong and lasting affection for individuals. Well ! 
we deserve no better of them. After all, too, the flame is only 
smothered by society, not extinguisht. Give it free air, and 
it will blaze. 



The following sentence is translated from D'Alembert by 
Dugald Stewart : " The truth is, that no relation whatever can 
be discovered between a sensation in the mind, and the object 
by which it is occasioned, or at least to which we refer it : it 
does not appear possible to trace, hy dint of reasoning, any 
practicaUe passage from the one to the other.'' If this be so, if 
there be no necessary connection between the reception of an 
object into the senses, and its impression on the mind, what 
ground have we for supposing the organs of sense to be more 
than machinery for the uses of the body? The body may 
indeed be said to see through the eye : but how, — if we can 
trace no nearer connection between the mind and an object 
painted on the retina, than between the mind and the object 
itself, — how can it be asserted, that the mind needs the eye to 
see with ? 

Most idle, then, are all disquisitions on the intermediate 
state, founded on the assumption that the soul, when apart from 
the body, has no perceptions. "Waller's couplet, 

The soul's dark cottage, battered and decayed, 

Lets iu new lights through chinks that time has made, 

may be, perhaps is, no less true in fact, than pretty in fancy. 
Spirits may acquire new modes of communication on losing 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



21 



their mouths and ears, just as a bird gets its feathers on burst- 
ing from the shelL Our own experience furnishes a similar 
analogy. As the unborn infant possesses dormant senses, 
which it puts forth on coming into this world, in like manner 
our still embryo soul may perhaps have latent senses, — living 
inlets shall I call them, or capacities of spiritual vision and 
communion? — to be exercised hereafter for its improvement 
and delight, -when it issues from its present womb, the body. 

But here a dreadful supposition crosses me. What if sin, 
which so enfeebles the understanding, and dulls the conscience, 
should also clog and ultimately stifle these undevelopt powers 
and faculties, so as to render spiritual communion after death 
impossible to the wicked ? What if the imbruted soul make 
its own prison, shut itself up from God, and exclude everything 
but the memory of its crimes, evil desires " baying body," and 
the dread of intolerable, unavoidable, momentarily approaching 
punishment ? At least it is debarred from repentance : this 
one thought is terrible enough. 

In Bacon's noble estimate of the dignity of knowledge, in 
the first book of the Advancement of Learning, he observes 
that, " in the election of those instruments, wdiich it pleased 
God to use for the plantation of the faith, notwithstanding that 
at the first He did employ persons altogether unlearned, other- 
wise than by inspiration, more evidently to declare His imme- 
diate working, and to abase all human wisdom or knowledge, 
yet nevertheless that counsel of His was no sooner performed, 
but in the next vicissitude and succession He did send His 
divine truth into the world waited on with other learnings, as 
with servants or handmaids : for so we see St. Paul, who was 
the only learned amongst the Apostles, had his pen most used 
in the Scriptures of the New Testament." 

From this remark let me draw a couple of corollaries : first, 
that such a man, as w^ell from his station, as from his acuteness, 
and the natural pride of a powerful and cultivated intellect, 
was the last person to become the dupe of credulous enthusi- 
asts ; especially when they w^ere lowborn and illiterate. And 



22 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



secondly, that from this appointment -sve may draw an inference 
in favour of a learned ministry. If some of the Apostles had 
no other human instructor than the best Master that ever lived, 
Jesus Christ ; the one most immediately and supernaturally 
called by Him to preach the Gospel was full of sacred and 
profane learning. 

It was a practice worthy of our worthy ancestors, to fill their 
houses at Christmas with their relations and friends ; that, when 
Nature was frozen and dreary out of doors, something might 
be found Avithin doors " to keep the pulses of their hearts in 
proper motion." The custom however is only appropriate 
among people who happen to have hearts. It is bad taste to 
retain it in these days, when everybody worth hanging 

oublie sa mere, 
Et par bon ton se ddfeud d'eh-e pere. 

Most people, it is evident, have life granted to them for their 
own sake : but not a few seem sent into the world chiefly for 
the sake of others. How many infants eveiy year come and 
go like apparitions ! This remark too, if true in any degree, 
holds good much further. 

A critic should be a pair of snuffers. He is oftener an 
extinguisher; and not seldom a thief. xr. 

The intellect of the wise is like glass : it admits the light of 
heaven, and reflects it. 



They who have to educate children, should keep in mind 
that boys are to become men, and that girls are to become 
women. The neglect of this momentous consideration gives 
us a race of moral hermaphrodites. a. 

Poetry is to pliilosophy what the sabbath is to the rest of 
the week. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



23 



The ideal incentives to virtuous energy are a sort of moon 
to the moral world. Their borrowed light is but a dimmer sub- 
stitute for the lifegiving rays of religion ; replacing those rays, 
when hidden or obscured, and evidencing their existence, when 
they are unseen in the heavens. 

To exclaim then, during the blaze of devotional enthusiasm, 
against the beauty and usefulness of such auxiliary motives, is 
fond. To shut the eye against their luminous aid, Avhen re- 
ligion does not enlighten our path, is lunatic. To understand 
their comparative worthlessness, feel their positive value, and 
turn them, as occasion arises, to account, is the part of the 
truly wise. 

I have called these incentives a sort of moon. Had the 
image occurred to one of those old writers, who took such 
pleasure in tracing out recondite analogies, he would scarcely 
have omitted to remark, that, in the conjunctions of these two 
imaginary bodies, the moral moon is never eclipst, except at 
the full, nor ever eclipses, but when it is in the wane. " Love," 
says our greatest living prose-writer,* in one of his wisest and 
happiest moods, "is a secondary passion in those who love 
most, a primary in those who love least. He who is inspired 
by it in a great degree, is inspired by honour in a greater." 
So it is with Honour and Religion. 

Before me were the two Monte Cavallo statues, towering 
gigantically above the pygmies of the present day, and looking 
like Titans in the act of threatening heaven. Over my head 
the stars were just beginning to look out, and might have been 
taken for guardian angels keeping watch over the temples be- 
low. Behind, and on my left, were palaces ; on my right, 
gardens, and hills beyond, ^viih. the orange tints of sunset over 
them still glowing in the distance. Within a stone's throw of 



* Landor, in his beautiful Conversation between Roger Ascham and Lady 
Jane Gray. The passage is all the better for its accidental coincidence with 
those noble lines by Lovelace : 

I could not love thee, dear, so much, 

Loved I not honour more. 



24 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



me, in the midst of objects thus glorious in themselves, and thus 
in harmony with each other, was stuck an uniDlaned post, on 
which glimmered a paper lantern. Such is Rome. 

Many men, however ambitious to be great in great things, 
have been well content to be little in little things. a. 

Jupiter-Scapin was a happy name, witty and appropriate : 
he however for whom it was invented was one of a large 
family. By the vulgar he is admired, and has been almost 
worshipt, as the hero of Marengo, of Austerlitz, of Jena, and 
of how many other fields of carnage : but go and read his will 
in Doctors' Commons ; and you will find that this man-slayer 
on a huge and grand scale could also relish murder on the 
meanest scale, and that in his solitude in St. Helena such ma- 
lignity festered in his heart, as made him leave a legacy of ten 
thousand franks to a man for having attempted to assassinate 
the true hero, who conquered him at Waterloo. u. 



So great enormities have been committed by privateers, 
within the memory of living men, — as may be seen in the 
Journal of Alexander Davidson, in the Edinburgh Annual Reg- 
ister, vol. iii. p. 2, — that it seems advisable that, on board 
every such ship, except perhaps in the four seas, there should 
be a superintending national officer, to keep a public journal, 
and to prevent crimes. If the officer die on the cruise, the 
privateer should be bound to make the nearest friendly port, 
unless she meet with a national ship-of-war that can spare 
her a superintendent out of its crew. A privateer not con- 
forming to the regulations on these points should be deemed 
a pirate. 

Unless some such provisions are adopted, the States now 
springing up in America will one day send forth a swarm of 
piratical privateers, cruel as the Buccaneers, and more unprin- 
cipled. 



A statesman may do much for commerce, most by leaving it 
alone. A river never flows so smoothly, as when it follows 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



25 



its own course, without either aid or check. Let it make its 
own bed : it will do so better than you can. a. 

Anguish is so ahen to man's spirit, that nothing is more 
difficult to will than contrition. Therefore God is good enougli 
to afflict us, that our hearts, being brought low enough to feed 
on sorrow, may the more easily sorrow for sin unto repentance. 

In most ruins we see what Time has spared. Ancient Rome 
appears to have defied him ; and its remains are the limbs 
which he has rent and scattered in the struojorle. t. 



How melancholy are all memorials I T. 

Were we merely the creatures of outward impulses, what 
would faces of joy be but so many glaciers, on which the seem- 
ing smile of happiness at sunrise is only a flinging back of the 
rays they appear to be greeting, from frozen and impassive 
heads ? 



It is with flowers, as with moral qualities : the bright are 
sometimes poisonous ; but, I believe, never the sweet. 



Picturesqueness is that quality in objects which fits them for 
making a good picture ; and it refers to the appearances of 
things in form and color, more than to their accidental associa- 
tions. Kembrandt would have been right in painting turbans 
and Spanish cloaks, though the Cid had been a scrivener, 
Cortez had sold sugar, and Mahomet had been notorious for 
setting up a drug-shop instead of a religion. 



It is a proof of our natural bias to evil, that gain is slower 
and harder than loss, in all things good : but, in all things bad, 
getting is quicker and easier than getting rid of. 

Would you cure or kill an evil prejudice ? Manage it as 
you would a pulling horse, tickle it as you would a trout^ 
2 



26 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



treat it as you would the most headstrong tiling in the world, 
and the readiest to take alarm, the likeliest to slip through 
your fingers at the moment you think you have got it safe, and 
are just about to make an end of it. 

Three reasons occur to me for thinking bodily sins more 
curable than mental ones. 

In the first place, they are more easily ascertained to be 
sins ; since they clothe themselves in outward acts, which admit 
neither of denial, nor, except in way of excuse, of self-decep- 
tion. Nobody, the morning after he has been drunk, can be 
ignorant that he went to bed not sober : his nerves and stom- 
ach assure him of the fact. But the same man might be long 
in finding out that he thinks more highly of himself than he 
ought to think, from having no palpable standard to convince 
him of it. 

Secondly, bodily sins do not so immediately affect the reason, 
but that we still possess an uncorrupted judge within us, to 
discover and proclaim their criminality. Whereas mental sins 
corrupt the faculty appointed to determine on their guilt, and 
darken the light which should show their darkness. 

Moreover, bodily sins must be connected with certain times 
and places. Consequently, by a new arrangement of hours, 
and by abstaining, so far as may be, from the places which 
have ministered opportunities to a bodily vice, a man may in 
some degree disable himself for committing it. This in most 
vices of the kind is easy, in sloth not ; which is therefore 
the most dangerous of them, or at least the hardest to be 
cured. The mind, on the other hand, is its own place, and 
does not depend on contingencies of season and situation for 
the power of indulging its follies or its passions. 

Still it must be remembered that bodily sins breed mental 
ones, thus, after they are stifled or extinct, leaving an evil and 
vivacious brood behind them. " Nothing grows weak with age 
(says South, vol. ii. p. 47), but that which will at length die 
with age ; which sin never does. The longer the blot continues, 
the deeper it sinks. Vice, in retreating from the practice of 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



27 



men, retires into their fancy," . . . and from that stronghold 
what shall drive it ? 



'Twas a night clear and cloudless, and the sight, 
Swifter than heaven-commissioned cherubim, 
Soaring above the moon, glancing beyond 
The stars, Avas lost in heaven's abysmal blue. 

There are things the knowledge of which proves their reve- 
lation. The mitid can no more penetrate into the secrets of 
heaven, than the eye can force a way through the clouds. It is 
only when they are withdrawn by a mightier hand, that the 
sight can rise beyond the moon, and, ascending to the stars, 
repose on the unfathomable ether, — that emblem of omnipres- 
ent Deity, which, everywhere enfolding and supporting man, 
yet baffles his senses, and is unperceived, except when he looks 
upward and contemplates it above him. 

It is well for us that we are born babies in intellect. Could 
we understand half what most mothers say and do to their 
infiints, we should be filled with a conceit of our own impor- 
tance, which would render us insupportable through life. 
Happy the boy whose mother is tired of talking nonsense to 
him, before he is old enough to know the sense of it ! 

A man who strives earnestly and perseveringly to convince 
others, at least convinces us that he is convinced himself r. 



It has been objected to the Reformers, that they dwelt too 
much on the corruption of our nature. But surely, if our 
strength is to be perfected, it can only be " in weakness." 
He who feels his fall from Paradise the most sorely, will be 
the most grateful for the offer of returning thither on the 
wings of the Redeemer's love. 

Written on Whitsunday. 
Who has not seen the sun on a fine spring morning pouring 
his rays through a transparent white cloud, filling all places 



28 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



with tlie purity of his presence, and kindling the birds into joy 
and song ? Such, I conceive, would be the constant effects of 
the Holy Spirit on the soul, were there no evil in the world. 
As it is, the moral sun, like the natural, though "it always 
makes a day," is often clouded over. It is only under a 
combination of peculiarly happy circumstances, that the heart 
suffers this sweet violence perceptibly, and feels and enjoys 
the ecstasy of being borne along by overpowering, unresisted 
influxes of good. To most, I fear, this happens only during 
the spring of life : but some hearts keep young, even at eighty. 

After listening to very fine music, it appears one of the 
hardest problems, how the delights of heaven can be so attem- 
pered to our perceptions, as to become endurable for their pain. 

A speech, being a matter of adaptation, and having to win 
opinions, should contain a little for the few^, and a great deal 
for the many. Burke hurt his oratory by neglecting the latter 
half of this rule, as Sheridan must have spoilt his by his care- 
lessness about the former. But the many always carry it for 
the moment against the few ; and though Burke was allowed to 
be the greater man, Sheridan drew most hearers. 

" I am convinced that jokes are often accidental. A man, in 
the course of conversation, throws out a remark at random, and 
is as much surprised as any of the company, on hearing it, to 
find it witty." 

For the substance of this observation I am indebted to one 
of the pleasantest men I ever knew, who was doubtless giving 
the results of his own experience. He might have carried his 
remark some steps further, with ease and profit. It would 
have done our pride no harm to be reminded, how few of our 
best and wisest, and even of our newest thoughts, do really and 
wholly originate in ourselves, how few of them are voluntary, 
or at least intentional. Take aw^ay all that has been suggested 
or improved by the hints and remarks of others, all that has 
fallen from us accidentally, all that has been struck out by col- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



29 



lision, all that has been prompted by a sudden impulse, or has 
occurred to us when least looking for it; and the remainder, 
which alone can be claimed as the fruit of our thought and 
study, will in every man form a small portion of his store, and 
in most men will be little worth preserving. • We can no more 
make thoughts than seeds. How absurd then for a man to call 
himself a poet, or maker! The ablest writer is a gardener 
first, and then a cook. His tasks are, carefully to select and 
cultivate his strongest and most nutritive thoughts, and when 
they are ripe, to dress them, wholesomely, and so that they 
may have a relish. 

To recur to my friend's remark : let me strengthen it with 
the authority of one of the wittiest men that ever lived ; who, 
if any man, might assuredly have boasted that his wit was not 
a foundling, "As the repute of wisdom, (says South, Sermon 
viii.), so that of wit also is very casual. Sometimes a lucky 
saying or a pertinent reply has procured an esteem of wit to 
persons otherwise very shallow ; so that, if such a one should 
have the ill hap to strike a man dead with a smart saying, it 
ought in all reason and conscience to be judged but a chance- 
medley. Nay, even when there is a real stock of wit, yet the 
wittiest sayings and sentences will be found in a great measure 
the issues of chance, and nothing else but so many lucky hits 
of a roving fancy. For consult the acutest poets and speak- 
ers ; and they will confess that their quickest and most admired 
conceptions were such as darted into their minds like sudden 
flashes of lightning, they knew not how nor whence ; and not 
by any certain consequence or dependence of one thought upon 
another." 

Were further confirmation needed, the poet of our age has 
been heard to declare, that once in his life he fancied he had 
hit upon an original thought, but that after a while he met with 
it in so common an author as Boyle. 

Whoever wishes to see an emblem of political unions and 
enmities, should walk, when the sun shines, in a shrubbery. 
So long as the air is quite still, the shadows combine to form 



30 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



a pretty trellice-work, which looks as if it would be lasting. 
But the wind is perverse enough to blow ; and then to pieces 
goes the treUice-work in an instant ; and the shadows, which 
before were so quiet and distinct, cross and intermingle con- 
fusedly. It seems impossible they should ever re-unite : yet, 
the moment the wind subsides, they dovetail into each other 
as closely as before. 

Before I traveled, I had no notion that mountain scenery 
was so unreal. Beside the strangeness of finding common 
objects on new levels, and hence in new points of view, you 
have only to get into a retired nook, and you hear water, and 
catch a glimpse of the tops of trees, but see nothing distinctly 
except the corner of rock where you are standing. You ai'e 
surrounded by a number of well-known effects, so completely 
severed to the eye and imagination from their equally well- 
known and usually accompanying causes, that you cannot tell 
what to make of them. 



All things here are strange ! 
Rocks scanned like rough-hewn "wood ! Ice brown as sand 
Wet by the tide, and cleft, with depths between. 
And streams outgushing from its frozen feet ! 
Snow -bridges arching over headlong torrents ! 
And then the sightless sounds, and noiseless motions, 
Which hover i-ound us ! I should dream I dreamt, 
But for those looks of kindness still unchanged. 



these mob torrents ! here, with show of fury, 
Rushing submissive to an arch of snow, 
That frailest fancy-work of Xature's idlesse; 
There threatening I'ocks, and rending ancient firs, 
The sovereins of the wood, yet overwhelmed, 
And dasht to the earth with hooting violence. 

Many actions, hke the Rhone, have two sources, one pure, 
the other impure. 

It is with great men as with high mountains. They oppress 
us with awe when we stand under them : they disappoint our 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



31 



insatiable imaginations when we are nigh, but not quite close 
to them : and then, the further we recede from them, the more 
astonishing they appear ; until their bases being concealed by 
intervening objects, they at one moment seem miraculously 
lifted above the earth, and the next strike our fancies as let 
down from heaven. 



The apparent and the real progress of human affairs are 
both well illustrated in a waterfall ; where the same noisy, bub- 
bling eddies continue for months and years, though the water 
which froths in them changes every moment. But as every 
drop in its passage tends to loosen and detach some particle of 
the channel, the stream is working a change all the time in the 
appearance of the fall, by altering its bed, and so subjecting the 
river during its descent to a new set of percussions and rever- 
berations. 

And what, when at last effected, is the consequence of this 
change? The foam breaks into shapes somewhat different; 
but the noise, the bubbhng, and the eddies are just as violent 
as before. 



A little management may often evade resistance, which a 
vast force might vainly strive to overcome. a. 

Leaves are light, and useless, and idle, and wavering, and 
changeable : they even dance : yet God has made them part of 
the oak. In so doing He has given us a lesson not to deny the 
stout-heartedness within, because we see the lightsomeness 
without. 



How disproportionate are men's projects and means ! To 
raise a single church to a single Apostle, the monuments of 
antiquity were ransackt, and forgiveness of sins was doled out 
at a price. Yet its principal gate has been left unfinisht ; and 
its holy of holies is encrusted with stucco. 



On entering St. Peter's, my first impulse was to throw my- 



32 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



self on my knees ; and, but for the fear of being observed by 
my companions, I must have bowed my face to the ground, and 
kist the pavement. I moved slowly up the nave, opprest by 
my own littleness ; and when at last I reacht the brazen 
canopy, and my spirit sank within me beneath the sublimity of 
the dome, I felt that, as the ancient Romans could not condemn 
Manlius within sight of the Capitol, so it would be impossible 
for an Italian of the present day to- renounce Popery under the 
dome of St. Peter's. 



The impressions produced by an object which addresses itself 
to the understanding and the heart by a number of conflicting 
associations, will probably vary much, even in the same mind, 
under different aspects of moral light and shade : nor do I 
believe that there is any real discrepancy between my own 
feelings and my brother's, when I say that the hollowness and 
fraud of Popery were never brought before my mind more 
forcibly, nay, glaringly, than beneath the dome of St. Peter's. 
One of my first visits to that gorgeous cathedral was on Christ- 
masday 1832. I expected to see a sight agreeing, at least in 
outward appearance, with the title of Catholic, which the 
Church of Rome claims as exclusively her own, — to find a 
multitude of persons thronging in from the city and from the 
neighboring country to attend the celebration of high mass on 
that blessed festival by him whom they were taught to revere 
as Christ's vicegerent upon earth. But instead of this a row of 
soldiers was drawn up along each side of the nave, and kept 
everybody at a distance during the whole service, except the 
few who Avere privileged by station or favour to enter within 
the lines. Beside the altar, under the dome, seats had been 
erected for persons of rank or wealth, who were mainly forein- 
ers, and consequently in great part English or German Prot- 
estants. Thus the whole proceeding acquired the character, 
not of a religious ceremony, in which the congregation was to 
join, but of a theatrical exhibition before strangers, regarded, 
for the most part, as heretics, and many of whom came merely 
out of curiosity to see the show. After a while the Pope was 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



33 



brought in, borne on a raised seat or palanquin, with splendid 
robes and plumes and fans and other paraphernalia. He cele- 
brated mass, the persons who ought to have formed the congre- 
gation, a very scanty one at the utmost, being prevented from 
approaching by the barrier of troops : and when the rite was 
over, the chief performer, or chief victim, in this miserable 
pageant was carried out again with the same pomp. The 
thought of the moral debasement thus inflicted on a man, who 
personally might be honest and pious, and of his utter inability 
to struggle against such a crushing system, so opprest me as I 
walkt away, that when, in mounting the steps before the 
Trinita, my eyes fell on a poor beggar who used to sit there, 
and who had neither hands nor feet, picking up the alms 
thrown to him with his mouth, I could not refrain from ex- 
claiming. How injinitely rather would I he that poor cripple, 
than Pope ! 

Can the effect of the ceremonies in St. Peter's on intelhgent 
Italians in these days be very different ? I doubt it ; whatever 
might be their feelings w^hen they merely saw the empty shell 
of the building. I have known men indeed, whom I esteem 
and honour, and who have regarded Rome as a solemn and 
majestic witness of what they have deemed the Truth. But to 
me, though, from the indescribable beauty and grandeur of 
many of the views, the intense interest of its Heathen and 
Christian recollections, and its inexhaustible stores of ancient 
and modern art, the three months I spent there were daily 
teeming with fresh sources of delight, and have left a love such 
as I never felt for any other city, yet when I thought of Eome 
in connexion with the religion, of which it is the metropolis, it 
seemed to me of all places the last where a man with his eyes 
open could be converted to Romanism. In the Tyrol, I could 
have understood how a person living amongst its noble and 
devout inhabitants might have been led to embrace their faith, 
but not at Rome. The vision of the Romish Church, and of its 
action upon the people, which was there graven on my mind, 
accords with that implied in the answer of an ingenious English 
painter, whom I askt, how he could bring himself to leave 
2* c 



34 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Rome, after living so many years there. It was indeed very 
painful, he repHed, to tear myself away from so much exquisite 
beauty : but, as my children grew up, it became absolutely neces- 
sary ; for I found it utterly impossible to give them a notion of 
truth at Rome. The terrible curse, which is represented in the 
words of the ancient satirist, — Quid Romae faciam ? mentiri 
nescio, — seems still to cleave to the fateful city. u. 



The germ of idolatry is contained in the proneness of man's 
feelings and imagination to take their impressions from out- 
ward objects, rather than from the dictates of reason ; under the 
controU of which they can scarcely be brought without a great 
impairing of their energies. 

It may possibly have been in part from a merciful indulgence 
to this tendency of our nature, that God vouchsafed to shew 
Himself in the flesh. At least one may discern traces which 
seem to favor such a belief, both in the Jewish scheme and in 
the Christian. In both God revealed Himself palpably to the 
outward senses of His people : in both He addrest Himself 
personally by acts of loving-kindness to their affections. It is 
not merely for being redeemed, that we are called on to feel 
thankful ; but for being redeemed by the blood of the God-man 
Jesus Christ, which He poured out for us upon the Cross. So 
it was not simply as God, that Jehovah was to be worshipt by 
the Jews ; but as the God of their fathers, who had brought 
them out of the house of bondage, whose voice they had heard 
and lived, who had chosen them to be His people, and had 
given them His laws, and a land flowing with milk and honey. 

The last sentence has suggested a query of some importance. 
Out of the house of bondage. What says the advocate of co- 
lonial slavery to this ? That the bondage was no evil ? that the 
deliverance of a people from personal slavery was not a work 
befitting God's right hand ? Or will he tell us that the cases 
differ ? that the animal wants of the Israelites were ill attended 
to ? that they were ill fed ? Tiiis at least will not serve his 
purpose : for the fleshpots of Egypt are proverbial. What will 
serve it, I leave him to discover ; only recommending him to 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



35 



beware of relying much on the order to expose the Hebrew 
children. If he does, it will give way under him. Meanwhile 
to those religious men who are labouring for the emancipation 
of the Negroes, amid the various doubts and difficulties with 
which every great political measure is beset, it must needs be 
an inspiring thought, that to rescue a race of men from personal 
slavery, and raise them to the rank and self-respect of inde- 
pendent beings, is, in the strictest sense of the word, a god-like 
task ; inasmuch as it is a task which, God's Book tells us, God 
Himself has accomplisht. But these things, as Paul says, ex- 
pressly speaking of the Pentateuch, happened for examples, and 
were written for our admonition. 



Often would the lad 
Watch with sad fixedness the summer sun 
In bloodred blaze sink hero-like to rest. 
Then, to set like thee ! hut /, alas ! 
Am tceah^ a poor, unheeded shepherd boy.* 
'Twas that alas undid him. His ambition, 
Once the vague instinct of his nobleness, 
Thus tempered in the glowing funiace-heat 
Of lone repinings and aye-present aims. 
Brightened to hope and hardened to resolve. 
To hope ! What hope is that whose clearest ray- 
Is drencht with mother's tears? what that resolve, 
Whose strength is crime, whose instnmient is death ? 

There is something melancholy and painful in the entire 
abandonment of any institution designed for good. It is too 
plain a confession of intellectual weakness, too manifest a re- 
ceding before the brute power of outward things. Any one 
can amputate : the difficulty and the object is to restore. To 
reanimate lifeless forms, — to catch their departed spirit, and 
embody it in another shape, — in the room of institutions 
grown obsolete, to substitute such new ones as will mould, 
sway, and propell the existing mass of thought and character, 



* Since these lines were written, a fine passage, expressing the feelings 
with which an ambitious lad sits watching the setting sun, has been pointed 
out to me in Schiller's Robbers. 



36 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



and thus do for the present age, what the old in their vigour 
did for the past, — these are things worth Hving a poUtician's 
hfe for, with all its labours and disgusts. Did that alone suffice, 
who would live any other ? But to accomplish these things, 
the most dextrous mastery of the art is requisite, guided by 
the brightest illuminations of the science : and where is the 
man with both these, when so few have either ? 



Quicquid credam valde credo ^ must be the motto of every • 
true poet. His belief is of the heart, not of the head, and 
springs from himself much more than from the object. 

It is curious that we express personality and unity by the 
same symbol. 



Is there any country in which polygamy is more frequent 
than in England ? 



In some cases the mistress has been so much a wife, it only 
remains for the wife to be a mistress. 

Yet, strictly speaking, it is just as impossible for any but a 
wife to be a wife, as for any but a wife to be a mother. And 
wisdom cries, through the lips of a great French philosopher, 

N'en croyez pas les romans : il faut etre epouse pour etre 
mere." Bonald, Pensees, p. 97. 



Xerxes promist a great reward to the inventer of a new 
pleasure. What would he not promise in our days to the in- 
venter of a new incident ? Fancy and Chance have long since 
come to an end, the one of its combinations, the other of its 
legerdemain. 

Now the huge book of faery-land lies closed ; 
And those strong brazen clasps will yield no more. 

But since the fictitious sources of poetry are thus as it were 
drunk up, is poetry to fail with them ? If not, from whence is 
it to be supplied ? From the inexhaustible springs of truth 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



37 



and feeling, which are ever gurgUng and boiling up in the 
caverns of the human heart. 



It is an uncharitable errour to ascribe the delight, with which 
unpoetical persons often speak of a mountain-tour, to affecta- 
tion. The delight is as real as mutton and beef, with which 
it has a closer connexion than the travelers themselves sus- 
pect, — arising in great measure from the good effects of moun- 
tain air, regular exercise, and wholesome diet, upon the spirits. 
This is sensual indeed, though not improperly so : but it is no 
concession to the materialist. I do not deny that my neighbour 
has a soul, by referring a particular pleasure in him to the body. 

Poetry should be an alterative : modern playwrights have 
converted it into a sedative ; which they administer in such 
unseasonable quantities, that, like an overdose of opium, it 
makes one sick. 



Time is no agent, as some people appear to think, that it 
should accomplish anything of itself Looking at a heap of 
stones for a thousand years will do no more toward building a 
house of them, than looking at them for a moment. For Time, 
when applied to works of any kind, being only a succession of 
relevant acts, each furthering the work, it is clear that even an 
infinite succession of irrelevant and therefore inefficient acts 
would no more achieve or forward the completion, than an 
infinite number of jumps on the same spot would advance a 
man toward his journey's end. There is a motion without 
progress in time as well as in space ; where a thing often re- 
mains stationary, which appears to us to recede, while we are 
leaving it behind. 



A sort of ostracism is continually going on against the best, 
both of men and measures. Hence the good are fain to pur- 
chase the acquiescence of the bad, by contenting themselves 
with the second, third, or even fourth best, according as they 
can make their bargain. 



38 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Courage, when it is not lieroic self-sacrifice, is sometimes a 
modification, and sometimes a result of faith. How vast a 
field then is opened to man, by establishing faith and its modi- 
fications upon the power and truth of God ! Had this great 
Gospel virtue (which, as the New Testament philosophically 
affirms, has power to remove mountains) been really and ex- 
tensively operative, what highth or perfection might we not have 
reacht ? As the apparent impossibilities, which check man's 
exertions, vanisht, his views would have enlarged in propor- 
tion : so that, considering how the removal of a single obstacle 
will often disclose unimagined paths, and open the way to un- 
dreamt of advances, our wishes might perhaps afford a surer 
measure even than our hopes, for calculating the progress of 
man under the impulse of this master principle. Who, twenty 
years ago, notwithstanding the Vicar of Wahjield, thought 
that practicable, which Mrs. Fry has shewn to be almost 
easy ? 

From a narrow notion of human duty, men imagine that the 
devout and social affections are the only qualities stunted by 
want of faith. Were it so, we should not have to deplore that 
narrow sphere of knowledge, that dearth of heroic enterprise, 
that scarcity of landmarks and pinnacles in virtue, for which 
cowardly man has to thank his distrust of what he can accom- 
plish, God assisting. We could in no wise have had more 
than one discoverer of America ; but we should then have been 
blest with many Columbuses. So Bacon teaches in his Essay 
on At/ieism : " Take an example of a dog, and mark what a 
generosity and courage he will put on, when he finds himself 
maintained by a man, who to him is instead of a god, or melior 
natura ; which courage is manifestly such, as that creature, 
without that confidence of a better nature than his own, could 
never attain. So man, when he resteth and assureth himself 
upon divine protection and favour, gathereth a force and faith, 
which human nature in itself could not obtain. Therefore, as 
atheism is in all respects hateful, so it is especially in this, that 
it destroys magnanimity, and depriveth human nature of the 
means to exalt itself above human frailty. " 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



39 



But I may be told perhaps that, although this is spoken most 
truly against atheism, no such thing as atheism is to be found 
now ; and I may be askt, Who are atheists ? I answer, with 
sorrow and awe, Practically every man is an atheist, who lives 
without God in the world. 



Friendsliip is Love, without either flowers or veil. 



Juliet's flow of feeling is a proof of her purity. 

As oftentimes, when walking in a wood near sunset, though 
the sun himself be hid by the highth and bushiness of the trees 
around, yet we know that he is still above the horizon, from 
seeing his beams in the open glades before us, illumining a 
thousand leaves, the several brightnesses of which are so many 
evidences of his presence ; thus it is with the Holy Spirit. He 
works in secret ; but his work is manifest in the lives of all 
true Christians. Lamps so heavenly must have been lit from 
on high. 

As the Epicureans had a Deism without a God, so the Uni- 
tarians have a Christianity without a Christ, and a Jesus but 
no Saviour. 



Christian prudence passes for a want of worldly courage; just 
as Christian courage is taken for a want of worldly prudence. 
But the two qualities are easily reconciled. When we have 
outward circumstances to contend with, what need we fear, God 
being with us ? When we have sin and temptation to contend 
with, what should we not fear ? God leaving our defense to 
our own hearts, which at the first attack surrender to the en- 
emy, and go over at the first solicitation. 

Of Christian courage I have just spoken. On Christian pru- 
dence it is well said, that he who loves danger shall perish hy it. 
" He who will fight the devil at his own weapon, must not won- 
der if he finds him an overmatch." South, Sermon Ixv. 



40 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Mark liow the moon athwart yon snowy Avaste 

An instant glares on us, then hides her head, 

Curtained in thickest clouds, while half her orb 

Hangs on the horizon like an urn of fire. 

That too diminishes, drawn up toward heaven 

By some invisible hand: and now 'tis gone: 

And nought remains to man, but anxious thoughts, 

Why one so beautiful should frown on him. 

With painful longings for a gift resumed, 

And the aching sense that something has been lost. 



Light will blind u man, sooner than darkness. Are we then 
to pray that we may be left in darkness? O no ! but beware, ye 
who walk in light, lest ye turn your light into a curse. A. 

Plan for the Alleviation of the Poor-rates, written in 1826. 

I entreat every one who does not see the grievous evil of the 
Poorlaws, as now administered, or who doubts the necessity of 
applying some strong remedy, to read the article on those laws 
in the 66th number of the Quarterly Review. It is written 
professedly in their defense : yet, unless with Malachi Mala- 
growther I called them a cancer, I could say nothing severer 
than is there said against their present administration, and its 
effects and tendencies ; which the writer refers to the act passed 
in 1795, " enabling overseers to relieve poor persons at their 
own homes^^ For nearly a century before, the Poor-rates had 
fluctuated httle. In the thirty-one years since, they have risen 
from two to six millions; and if no measures are taken to stop the 
evil, they must still go on increasing. " Yet (as the Reviewer 
says) the direct savings which would accrue from a better sys- 
tem of supporting the poor, are not worth consideration, when 
contrasted with the indirect advantages, from the melioration of 
the character and habits of the agricultural labourer." 

Almost every man in England is affected by this evil system ; 
almost every man, except the farmers, who are the loudest in 
their complaints, is directly injured by it ; the poor most. Let 
them then, to use their own phrase, know the rights of the 
matter. Shew them how great, how important a part of the 
system, us it now exists, is quite new. Appeal to their own ex- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



41 



perience, whether it is not most pernicious. Half the difficulty 
which impedes an alteration of the Poorlaws, will be at an 
end. 

The repeal of the Act of 1795 may do a good deal, especially 
for the payers of Poor-rates. But I am disposed to go much 
further ; not from hard-heartedness, or a disregard for the hap- 
piness and welfare of the honest and industrious poor of this 
land ; but from a belief that, after a few years, when the evil 
effects of the present system are worn out of the character and 
habits of the English labourer, his condition would be improved 
by a complete change in our system of legal charity. 

Old age is the only period of a poor man's life, when, if hon- 
est and industrious, he would not be sorry to owe his regular 
support to any hands except his own. Now in old age his 
comforts would be augmented, and, what is of still more conse- 
quence to him, his respectability would be increast, — he would 
be a richer man, a more independent man, a man of greater 
weight in the village, — from the adoption of some regulations 
of this sort. 

Let a fund be establisht for the benefit of the poor, to be called 
the National Poor-fund. Out of this fund, every labourer (pay- 
ing the sum of weekly, from the time he is sixteen till 

he is ) shall at the age of sixty-five be entitled to re- 
ceive the third of a hale labourer's average waores. That third 
at the end of four years is to be doubled ; and at the end of 
eight years tripled. Thus at seventy-three the labourer, if he 
live so long, will be entitled of right to receive the full amount 
of a healthy labourer's wages. 

The poor of large towns and manufacturers, I conceive, are 
shorter-lived than peasants. If so, they should be entitled to 
the benefits of the National Poor-fund earlier. The trifle to 
be paid weekly both by them and by the agricultural labourers 
should be less, perhaps considerably less, than what would be 
demanded by an Insurance-office guaranteeing the same pro- 
spective advantages. 

I Occasional distress may safely be left to private charity. 
Consequently there need not be any temporary relief ; nor 



42 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



should there, as that would reopen a door to all the present 
evils. There should also be few poor-houses. Orphans, and 
occasionally the aged, in country parishes might be boarded out, 
(as is, or was, the custom at Lyons with the foundlings, who, 
instead of being reared in the hospital, w^ere put out to nurse,) 
due care being taken to place the orphans with cottagers of 
good repute. But a subscriber to the fund, if disabled by an 
accident, might at any age claim relief from it apportioned to 
his maimedness. 

Persons who had not contributed to the fund in their youth, 
w^ould receive no relief from it in old age. Contributions for 
less than years should be forfeited ; but every man, pay- 
ing his dues for that number of years, and then discontinuing 
his contribution, should be entitled to relief proportionate. 
Whether he should begin to receive at sixty-five, only receiving 
less weekly, or should begin to receive aid later, is a question I 
am not prepared to answer. Perhaps the latter would be the 
better plan in most cases. 

Of women I say nothing : but it would be easy to form a 
liberal scale, — and liberal it should be, — for them. Only I 
would allow contributors, who die without benefiting by the 
fund, to bequeathe to women who are, or to female infants 
provided they become, contributors, the amount of one year's 

contribution for every during which the testator may have 

contributed ; such amount being carried to the account of the 
legatee, exactly as if she had paid it herself. 

To increase this Poor-fund, either a parHamentary grant 
should be voted yearly, or, — what would be far better, and 
should therefore be tried in the first instance, — the rich should 
come forward as honorary subscribers. Nay, every one without 
exception should belong to it, either as subscriber or contribu- 
tor. It is the littles of the little that make the mickle. 

Of the contributors I have spoken already. For subscribers 
the following yearly proportion, or something like it, would 
suffice : one pound for all who in any way have sixty pounds a 
year ; tivo for all who have a hundred ; and so on. Only there 
should be a maximum, and that not a large one ; so that in rich 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



43 



families the wife might subscribe as well as the husband. All 
persons now liable to be rated should put in a trifle for every 
child above six or seven years old : this in the case of the 
wealthy should be as much, or nearly so, as they put in for 
themselves. Moreover all masters should take care that their 
servants are subscribers, making them an allowance on purpose. 
In return for this they should be admitted to relief in old age, 
as they would now be, on making out a case of necessity. But 
only bondjide w^orking persons should be entitled to receive of 
right, as contributors to the fund ; who are carefully to be dis- 
tinguisht from the subscribers in aid of it. 



The Jacobins, in realizing their systems of fraternization, 
always contrived to be the elder brothers. l. 



— — I rise 

From a perturbed sleep, broken by dreams 

Of long and desperate conflict hand to hand, 

Of wounds, and rage, and hard-earned victory, 

And charging over falling enemies 

With shouts of joy • . . How quiet is the night ! 

The trees are motionless ; the cloudless blue 

Sleeps in the finnament ; the thoughtful moon, 

"With her attendant train of circling stai's. 

Seems to forget her journey through the heavens, 

To gaze upon the beauties of the scene. 

That scene how still ! no truant breeze abroad 

To mar its quietness. The veiy brook. 

So wont to prattle like a merry child. 

Now creeps with caution o'er its pebbled way, 

As if afraid to violate the silence. 



Handsomeness is the more animal excellence, beauty the 
more imaginative. A handsome Madonna I cannot conceive, 
and never saw a handsome Venus : but I have seen many a 
handsome country girl, and a few very handsome ladies. 

There would not be half the difficulty in doing right, but for 
the frequent occurrence of cases where the lesser virtues are 
on the side of wrong. 



44 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



Curiosity is little more than another name for Hope. 

Since the generality of persons act from impulse, much more 
than from principle, men are neither so good nor so bad as we 
are apt to think them. 

There is an honest unwillingness to pass off another's obser- 
vations for our own, which makes a man appear pedantic. 

Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerint ! . . . Immo vivant ! 
provided they are worthy to live. So may we have the satis- 
faction of knowing, — what literary incentive can be greater ? 
— that we too have been permitted to utter sacred words, and 
to think the thoughts of great minds. 

The commentator guides and lights us to the altar erected 
by the author ; but he himself must already have kindled his 
torch at the flame which burns upon it. And what are Art 
and Science, if not a running commentary on Nature ? what 
are poets and philosophers, but torchbearers leading us through 
the mazes and recesses of God's two majestic temples, the sen- 
sible and the spiritual world? Books, as Dryden has aptly 
termed them, are spectacles to read Nature. Eschylus and 
Aristotle, Sliakspeare and Bacon, are priests who preach and 
expound the mysteries of man and the universe. They teach 
us to understand and feel what we see, to decipher and syllable 
the hieroglyphics of the senses. Do you not, since you have 
read Wordsworth, feel a fresh and more thoughtful delight, 
whenever you hear a cuckoo, whenever you see a daisy, when- 
ever you play with a child ? Have not Thucydides and Machi- 
avel aided you in discovering the tides of feeling and the 
currents of passion by which events are borne along the ocean 
of Time ? Can you not discern something more in man, now 
that you look at him with eyes purged and unsealed by gazing 
upon Shakspeare and Dante? From these terrestrial and 
celestial globes we learn the configuration of the earth and the 
heavens. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



45 



But wheresoever good is done, good is received in return. 
The law of reciprocation is not confined to the physical system 
of things : in the career of benevolence and beneficence also 
every action is followed by a corresponding reaction. Intel- 
lectual light is not poured from a lantern, leaving the bearer in 
the shade : it supplies us with the power of beholding and con- 
templating the luminary it flows from. The more familiar we 
become with Nature, with the greater veneration and love do 
we return to the masters by whom we were initiated ; and as 
they have taught us to understand Nature, Nature in turn 
teaches us to understand them. 

" When I have been traveling in Italy (says a lively mod- 
ern writer), how often have I exclaimed, How like a picture I 
I remember once, while watching a glorious sunset from the 
banks of the Arno, I caught myself saying, This is truly one 
of Claude's sunsets. Now when I again see one of my favor- 
ite Grosvenor Claudes, I shall probably exclaim, How natural/ 
how like what I have seen so often on the Arno, or from the 
Monte Pincio I " Journal of ayi Ennuyee, p. 335. 

The same thing must have happened to most lovers of land- 
scape-painting. How often in the Netherlands does one see 
Cuyp's solid, oppressive sunshine 1 and Rubenses boundless, 
objectless plains, which no other painter would have deemed 
either worldly or susceptible of being transferred from Na- 
ture's Gallery to Art's ! More than once, in mounting the hill 
of Fiesole to Landor's beautiful villa, have I stopt with my 
companion to gaze on that pure, living ether, in which Peru- 
gino is wont to enshrine his Virgins and Saints, and which till 
then I had imagined to be a heavenly vision specially vouch- 
safed to him, such as this world of cloud and mist could not 
parallel. Many a time too among the Sussex downs have I 
felt grateful to Copley Fielding for opening my eyes to see 
beauties and harmonies, which else might have been unheeded, 
and for breathing ideas into the prospect, whereby " the repose 
Of earth, sky, sea, and air was vivified." 

Hence we may perceive, why what is called a taste for the 
picturesque never arises in a country, until it has reacht an 



46 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



advanced stage of intellectual culture : because an eye for the 
picturesque can only be formed by looking at pictures ; that is, 
primarily. In this, as in other cases, by Art are we first led to 
fix our attention and reflexion more observantly on the beauties 
of Nature : although, when such attention and reflexion have 
once become general, they may be excited in such as have 
never seen a picture. When we are told therefore that the 
earliest passages to be found in any ancient author, which sa- 
vour of what we should now call poetical description, are in the 
Epistles of Pliny, we must not infer from this that Pliny had 
a livelier and intenser love of Nature than any of the ancient 
poets. Supposing the remark to be correct, — and I will not 
stop to enquire how far it is so, — all it would prove is, that 
Pliny was, as we know him to have been, what we used to call 
a virtuoso, a picture-fancier, and that people in his day were 
beginning to look at Nature in the mirror of Art. It is a 
mistake however to conclude that men are insensible to those 
beauties, which they are not continually talking about and an- 
alysing, — that the love of Nature is a new feehng, because 
the taste for the Picturesque is a modern taste. When the 
mountaineer descends into the plain, he soon begins to pine 
with love for his native hills ; and many have been known to 
fall sick, nay, even to die, of that love. Yet, had he never left 
them, you would never have heard him prate about them. 
When I was on the Lake of Zug, which lies bosomed among 
such grand mountains, the boatman, after telling some stories 
about Suwarrow's march through the neighbourhood, askt me, 
Is it true, that he came from a country where there is not a 
mountain to he seen ? — Yes, I replied : you may go hundreds 
of miles without coming to one. — That must he heautiful! he 
exclaimed: das muss schon seynf His exclamation was prompt- 
ed no doubt by the thought of the difficulties which the moun- 
tains about him opposed to traffic and agriculture ; though even 
on his own score he erred, as Mammom is ever wont to do 
grossly. For those mountains gave him the lake, and attract- 
ed the strangers, whereby he earned his livelihood. But it 
is a perverse habit of the Imagination, when there is no call 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



47 



for action, to dwell on " the ills we have," without thinking of 
" the others which we know not of." This very man however, 
had he been transported to the plains he sighed for, — even 
though they had been as flat as Burnet's Paradise, or the tab- 
ula rasa which Locke supposed to be the paradisiacal state of 
the human mind, — would probably have been seized with the 
homesickness which is so common among his countrymen, as it 
is also among the Swedes and Norwegians, but which, I believe, 
is hardly found, except in the natives of a mountainous and 
beautiful country. 

The noisest streams are the shallowest. It is an old saying, 
but never out of season ; least of all in an age, the fit symbol of 
which would not be, like the Ephesian personification of Na- 
ture, multimamma, — for it neither brings forth nor nourishes, 
— but multilingua. Your amateur will talk by the ell, or, if 
you wish it, by the mile, about the inexpressible charms of Na- 
ture: but I never heard that his love had caused him the 
slightest uneasiness. 

It is only by the perception of some contrast, that we become 
conscious of our feelings. The feelings however may exist for 
centuries, without the consciousness ; and still, when they are 
mighty, they will overpower Consciousness ; when they are 
deep, it will be unable to fathom them. Love has indeed been 
called " loquacious as a vernal bird ; " and with truth ; but his 
loquacity comes on him mostly in the absence of his beloved. 
Here too the same illustration holds : the deep stream is not 
heard, until some obstacle opposes it. But can anybody, when 
floating down the Ehine, believe that the builders and dwellers 
in those castles, with which every rock is crested, Avere blind to 
all the beauties around them ? Is it quite impossible that they 
should have felt almost as much as the sentimental tourist, who 
returns to his parlour in some metropolis, and puffs out the 
fumes of his admiration through his quill ? Has the moon no 
existence independent of the halo about her ? Or does the halo 
even flow from her ? Is it not produced by the dimness and 
density of the atmosphere through which she has to shine ? 
Give me the love of the bird that broods over her own nest, 



48 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



rather than of one that lays her eggs in the nest of another, 
albeit she warble about parental aflfection as loudly as Rousseau 
or Lord Byron. 

Convents too . . how many of them are situate amid the 
sublimest and most beautiful scenery! I will only mention 
two, the great Chartreuse, and the monastery of the Camal- 
dulans near Naples. The hacknied remark at such places is, 
yes ! the monks ahvays knew how to pick out the eyes of the 
land, and to pounce ^ipon its fatness. It is forgotten that, when 
the convents were built^ the country round was mostly either a 
barren wilderness, or a vast, impenetrable forest, and that, if 
things are otherwise now, the change is owing to the patient 
industry of the monks and their dependents, not liable to alter- 
nations and interruptions, as is the case with other proprietors, 
but continued without intermission through centuries. Though 
one is bound however to protest against this stale and vulgar 
scoff, I know not how we can imagine that the men, who, when 
half " the world lay before them, were to choose their place of 
rest," pitcht their homes in spots surrounded by such surpass- 
ing grandeur and beauty, can have been without all sense tor 
what they saw. Rather, in retiring from the world to worship 
God in solitude, did they seek out the most glorious and awful 
chambers in that earthly temple, which also is " not made with 
hands." 

Add to this, that in every country, where there are national 
legends, they are always deeply and vividly imprest with a 
feehng of the magnificence or the loveliness in the midst of 
which they have arisen. Indeed, they are often little else than 
the expression and outpouring of those feelings: and such 
primitive poetical legends will hardly be found, except in the 
bosom of a beautiful country, growing up in it, and pendent 
from it, almost like fruit from a tree. The powerful influence 
exercised by natural objects in giving shape and life to those 
forms in which the Imagination embodies the ideas of super- 
human power, is finely illustrated by Wordsworth in one of the 
noblest passages of the Excursion: where he casts a glance 
over the workings of this principle in tlie mythologies of the 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



49 



Persians, the Babylonians, the Chaldeans, and the Greeks; 
shewing with what plastic power the imaginative love of Na- 
ture wedded and harmonized the dim conceptions of the mys- 
teries which lie behind the curtain of the senses, with the 
objects by which it happened to be surrounded, incarnating the 
invisible in the visible, and impregnating the visible with the 
invisible. The same principle is of universal application. You 
may perceive how it has operated in the traditions of the High- 
lands, of the Rhine, of Bohemia, of Sweden and Norway, in 
short of every country where poetry has been indigenous. As 
the poetry of the Asiatic nations may be termed the poetry of 
the sun, so the Edda is the poetry of ice. u. 



I have been trying to shew, that, though a taste for the 
picturesque, as the very form of the word picturesque, which 
betrays its recent origin, implies, is a late growth, a kind of 
aftermath, in the mind of a people, which cannot arise until a 
nation has gone through a long process of intellectual culture, 
nor indeed until after the first crop has been gathered in, still a 
feeling and love for the beauties of Nature may exist alto- 
gether independently of that self-conscious, self-analysing taste, 
and that such a feeling is sure to spring up, wherever there is 
nourishment for it, in a nation's vernal prime : although there 
may be a period, between the first crop and the aftermath, when 
the field looks parcht and yellow and bristly, and as if the dew 
of heaven could not moisten it. When the mind of a people 
first awakes, it is full of its morning dreams, and holds those 
dreams to be, as the proverb accounts them, true. A long time 
passes, — it must encounter and struggle with opposition, — 
before it acquires anything like a clear, definite self-conscious- 
ness. For a long time it scarcely regards itself as separate 
from Nature. It lies in her arms, and feeds at her breast, and 
looks up into her face, and smiles at her smiles. When it 
speaks, you rather hear the voice of Nature speaking through 
it, than any distinct voice of its own. It is like a child, in all 
whose words and thoughts you may perceive the promptings of 
its mother. Very probably indeed it may not talk much about 
3 D 



50 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



its love for its mother ; but it will give the strongest proofs of 
that love, by thinking in all things as its mother thinks, and 
speaking as its mother speaks, and doing as its mother does. 

This is the character of poetry in early times. It may be 
objected that you find no picturesque descriptions in it. That 
is to say, the poets have not learnt to look at Nature with the 
eye of a painter, nor to seek for secondary, reflex beauties in 
natural objects, arising whether from symbohcal, or from acci- 
dental associations. Nor do you see their love of Nature from 
their talking about nature : for they are not conversant with 
abstractions ; they deal only with persons and things. You 
may discern that love however by the way in which it is mixt 
up with the whole substance of their minds, as the glow of 
health mixes itself up with the whole substance of our bodies, 
unthouglit of, it may be, until we are reminded of it by its 
opposite, but still felt and enjoyed. 

Of Asiatic poetry it is needless to speak : for that even now 
has hardly emerged from its nonage, or risen beyond a child's 
fondness for flowers. But even in Homer, — although in 
Greek poetry afterward the human element, that which treats 
of man as being and doing and suffering, predominated more 
than in the poetry of any other country over the natural, which 
dwells on the contemplation of the outward world, its forms, its 
changes, and its influences, — and though the germs of this are 
to be found in the living energy and definiteness and bodiliness 
of all Homer's characters, — still what a love of Nature is there 
in him ! What a fresh morning air breathes through those 
twin firstbirths of Poetry ! what a clear bright sky hangs above 
those two lofty peaks of Parnassus ! In his own words we 
may say, that over them vneppdyTj aWcro? aWrjp. Indeed this 
naireTos aWrjp may be regarded as the peculiar atmosphere of 
Greek literature and art, an atmosphere which then first opened 
and broke upon it. Of all poems the Homeric have the most 
thoroughly out-of-door character. We stand on the Ionian 
coast, looking out upon the sea, and beholding it under every 
variety of hue and form and aspect. And there he too was 
wont to stand ; there, as Coleridge so melodiously expresses 
it, he 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



51 



Beheld the Iliad and the Odyssee 
Else to the swelling of the voiceful sea. 

Every epithet he gives to a natural object, every image taken 
from one, has the liveliest truth: and truth is ever the best 
proof that any one can give of love. Of the poetical descrip- 
tions of morning composed since the days of Homer, the chief 
part are little else than expansions and amplifications of his 
three sweet epithets, ^pi-ye'i/em, KpoKOTrenKos, and pobodaKTvXos. 
Nor can anything be more aptly chosen than his adjuncts and 
accompaniments: which shews that he was not destitute of 
what we call the sentimental love of Nature, that love of 
Nature which discerns a correspondence, and as it were a 
sympathy, between its appearances and changes, and the vi- 
cissitudes of human feeling and passion. Chryses, after his 
entreaties have been denied, walks aKecov irapa Blva 7roXuqf)Xoto-/3oio 
SaXdacTTjs, where the murmur of its waves responds to his feel- 
ings, and stirs him to pour them forth in a prayer to Apollo. 
In like manner Achilles, when Briseis is taken from him, sits 
apart by himself, 6lv* ecji aXos iroXirjs opoau eVi oivoTva ttovtov. 
The epithet oivoTra, denoting the dark gloom, perhaps the purple 
grape-color of the distant sea, while it was dashing and foaming 
at his feet, brings it into harmony and sympathy with Achilles. 
A bright, blue sea would have been out of keeping. Or take a 
couple of similies. When Apollo comes down from Olympus 
to avenge his insulted priest, he comes vvktI eotKcas. When 
Thetis rises from the sea to listen to her son's complaint, she 
rises rjvT o/xt'xXrj. Parallels to these two simiHes may be found 
in two of our own greatest poets. Milton says that Pandemo- 
nium " Rose like an exhalation from the earth." Coleridge's 
Ancient Mariner tells us that he passes " like Night from land 
to land." Milton's image is a fine one. Coleridge's appears 
to me, to adopt an expression which he uses in speaking of 
Wordsworth's faults, "too great for the subject," a piece of 
"mental bombast." Be this however as it may, how inferior 
are they both, in grandeur, in simplicity, in beauty, in grace, to 
the Homeric! which moreover have better caught the spirit 
and sentiment of the natural appearances. For Apollo does 



52 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



come with the power and majesty, and with the terrours of 
Night ; and the soft waviness of an exhalation is a much fitter 
image for the rising of the goddess, than for the massiness and 
hard, stiff outline of a building. In Homer's landscapes, it is 
true, there is a want, or rather an absence, of those ornamental, 
picturesque epithets, with which Pope has bedizened his trans- 
lation. This however only shews that the objects he speaks 
of " had no need of a remoter charm. By thought supplied, or 
any interest Unborrowed from the eye." Such as they are, he 
loves them for their own sake. In his vivid, transparent verse, 
e^ecPavsv Traaai o-KOTnai Koi Trpcoovcs UKpoi, Kai vdirai, — JJavra 8e t 
e'lberai aarpa. We feel too that he, as he says of his shepherd, 
yeyrjde (^pem at the sight; though no "conscious swain," as 
Pope styles him, nor thinking of " blessing the useful light," as 
by a kind of second sight of utilitarianism the bard of Twick- 
enham is pleased to make him. 

This distinctness of the Homeric descriptions leads Cicero, 
in a fine passage of the Tusculan Questions, to contend that he 
who, though blind, could so represent every object as to enable 
us to see what he himself could not see, must have derived 
great pleasure and enjoyment from his inward sight. There is 
more reason, however, in the witticism of Velleius, that, if any 
one supposes Homer to have been born blind, he must himself 
be destitute of every sense. For never was a fable more 
repugnant to truth, than that of Homer's blindness. It origi- 
nated, probably, in the identification of the author of the Iliad 
with the author of the Hymn to Apollo, and was then fostered 
by the notion that Homer designed to represent himself under 
the character of Demodocus in the Odyssee. Milton has 
indeed made a fine use of Homer's blindness : but, looking at 
it as a fact, one might as reasonably believe that the sun is 
blind, as that Homer was. 

In the Greek poets of the great age, I have already ad- 
mitted, there is little love of Nature. Man was then become 
very nearly all-in-all, to whose level the gods themselves Avere 
brought down, — not the skeleton man of philosophy, nor the 
puppet of empirical observation, — but the ideal man of imagi- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



53 



native thought, an idea as perfect as it can be, when drawn 
from no liigher source than what lies in man himself. The 
manifold, dazzling glories of Athens and of Greece filled their 
minds with the notion of the greatness of human nature : and 
that greatness they tried to exhibit in its struggles with fate 
and with the gods. Their characters are mostly statuesque 
even in this respect, that they have no background. In the 
Prometheus itself, the wilderness and the other natural horrours 
are mainly employed, like the chains and wedge, as instruments 
by which Jupiter tries to intimidate the benefactor of mankind. 
This, however, is not so much the case with Sophocles; in 
whose Edipus at Colonus, Ajax, and Philoctetes, the scenery 
forms an important element, not merely in the imaginative, but 
even in the dramatic beauty. In after times, when the glory 
of Greece had faded and sunk, when its political grandeur had 
decayed, and man was no longer the one engrossing object of 
admiration, we find a revival of the love of Nature in the pas- 
toral poetry of the Sicilians. 

With regard to modern poetry, when we are looking at any 
question connected with its history, we ought to bear in mind 
that we did not begin from the beginning, and that, with very 
few exceptions, we had not to hew our materials out of the 
quarry, or to devise the groundplan of our edifices, but made 
use, at least in great measure, of the ruins and substructions of 
antiquity. Hence Greece alone affords a type of the natural 
development of the human mind through its various ages and 
stages. Owing to this, and perhaps still more to the influence, 
direct and indirect, of Christianity, we from the first find a far 
greater body of reflective thought in modern poetry than in 
ancient. Dante is not, what Homer was, the father of poetry 
springing in the freshness and simplicity of childhood out of 
the arms of mother earth : he is rather, like Noah, the father 
of a second poetical world, to whom he pours out his prophetic 
song, fraught with the wisdom and the experience of the old 
world. Indeed he himself expresses this by representing him- 
self as wandering on his awful pilgrimage under the guidance 
of Virgil. 



54 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



It would require a long dissertation, illsuited to these pages, 
to pursue this train of thought through the literature of modern 
Europe. Let me hasten home, and take a glance at our own 
poets. The early ones, especially the greatest among them, 
were intense and devoted lovers of Nature. Chaucer sparkles 
with, the dew of morning. Spenser lies bathed in the sylvan 
shade. Milton glows with orient light. One might almost 
fancy that he had gazed himself blind, and had then been 
raised to the sky, and there stood and waited, like " blind Orion 
hungering for the morn." So abundantly had he stored his 
mind with visions of natural beauty, that, Avhen all without 
became dark, he was still most rich in his inward treasure, and 
" Ceast not to wander where the Muses haunt Clear spring, 
or shady grove, or sunny hill." Shakspeare "glances from 
heaven to earth, from earth to heaven." All nature minis- 
ters to him, as gladly as a mother to her child. Whether life 
wishes her to tune her myriad-voiced organ to Romeo's love, or 
to Miranda's innocence, or to Perdita's simplicity, or to Rosa- 
lind's playfulness, or to the sports of the Fairies, or to Timon's 
misanthropy, or to Macbeth's desolating ambition, or to Lear's 
heart-broken frenzy, — he has only to ask, and she puts on 
every feeling and every passion with which he desires to invest 
her. 

But, when Milton lost his eyes. Poetry lost hers. A time 
followed, when our poets ceast to commune with Nature, and 
ceast to love her, and, as there can be no true knowledge with- 
out love, ceast therefore to know anything about her. Man 
again became all-in-all, — but not the ideal human nature of 
Greek poetry, in its altitudes of action and passion. The 
human nature of our poets in those days was the human nature 
of what was called the town, with all its pettinesses and hollow- 
nesses and crookednesses and rottennesses. The great business 
and struggle of men seemed to be, to outlie, outcheat, outwhore, 
and outhector each other. Our poets then dwelt in Grub- 
street, and, to judge from their works, seldom left their garrets, 
save for the coffeehouse, the playhouse, or the stews. Dry- 
den wrote a bombastical description of night, from which one 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



55 



might suppose that he had never seen night, except by candle- 
light. He talkt of " Nature's self seeming to lie dead," — of 
" the mountains seeming to nod their drowsy head," — much as 
Charles the Second used to do at a sermon, — and of " sleeping 
flowers sweating beneath the nightdews," — which I can only 
parallel by a translation I once saw of Virgil's Scilicet is 
superis labor est, Ay sure, for this the gods laborious sweatr 
Yet this was extolled by Rymer, a countryman of Shak- 
speare's, as the finest description of night ever composed : an 
opinion which Johnson quotes, without expressing any dissent ; 
teUing us, moreover, that these lines were repeated oftener in 
his days than almost any others of Dryden's. 

It is true that, as I have been reminded, Shakspeare also 
has said of night, " Now o'er the one half world Nature seems 
dead;" and doubtless it was from hence that Dryden took 
what he thought a very grand idea. But as thieves never know 
or dare to make the right use of their stolen goods, so is it 
mostly with plagiaries. The verbal likeness only exposes the 
empty turgidity of Dryden : nor can there be a more striking 
illustration of Quintilian's saying, Midta jiwit eadem, sed aliter. 
For observe where Shakspeare uses this expression, and how 
it exemplifies that unrivaled power of imagination, wherewith, 
under the impulses of a mighty passion, he fuses every object 
by its intense radiation, and brings them into harmony with 
that passion by bathing them in a flood of bright, or sombre, or 
mellow, or bloodred light. Macbeth, just as he is going to 
commit the murder, standing on the very brink of hell, and 
about to plunge into it, sees the reflexion of his own chaotic 
feelings in all things. Order is turned into disorder ; law is 
suspended ; every natural, every social tie is cracking : he is 
hurling an innocent man, his guest, his king, into the jaws of 
death: death is in all his thoughts. To him therefore, with 
the deepest truth, "o'er the one half world Nature seems 
dead ; " even as he had just seen the instrument with which 
the crime was to be perpetrated, "in palpable form" before 
him, though only " a dagger of the mind, a false creation, Pro- 
ceeding from the heat-oppressed brain." All the other visions 
too which haunt him are of the same kind. 



56 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Wicked dreams abuse 
The curtained sleep. Witchcraft celebrates 
Pale Hecate's ofterings; and Avithered Murder, 
Alammed by his sentinel, the wolf, 
Whose howl 's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace, 
AV'ith Tarquin's ravishing strides, toward his design 
Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth. 
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear 
The very stones prate of my Avhereabout, 
And take the present horrour from the time, 
Which now suits with it. 

With what wonderful fitness do all the images, all the thoughts, 
all the words here " suit " with each other, and with Macbeth's 
terrific purpose ! whereas in Drjden's description there is no 
congruity, but only a string of poor and incongruous conceits, 
cold and extravagant ; and the occasion is merely that Cortez, 
who with like incongruity has fallen in love at sight with the 
daughter of Montezuma, cannot sleep, because " Love denies 
Rest to his soul, and slumber to his eyes." What then must 
have been the knowledge of Nature, and what the feeling for 
it, in an age when the poetical imagery, which the readers and 
repeaters of poetry were accustomed to associate with night, 
was Nature's lying dead, mountains nodding their drowsy heads, 
little birds repeating their songs in sleep, and sleeping flowers 
sweating beneath the nightdews ? People even learnt to fancy, 
and to tell one another, that all this was indeed so. As it is the 
wont of hollow things to echo, whenever a poet hit on a striking 
image, or a startling expression, it was bandied from mouth to 
mouth. Thus nodding mountains became a stock phrase. Pope 
makes Eloisa talk of " lowbrowed rocks that hang nodding o'er 
the deep : " where however we may suppose the poet to trans- 
fer the motion of the image in the water to the rocks them- 
selves. In his Iliad, " Pelion nods his shaggy brows," and 
" nodding Ilion waits the impending fall : " in his Odyssee, 
" On Ossa Pehon nods with all his woods." The same piece 
of falsetto is doubtless to be found scores of times in the verse- 
writers of the same school. 

Yet description, and moral satire or declamation, were the 
richest veins, poor and shallow as they are at best, which were 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



57 



opened in our serious verse between the death of Milton and 
the regeneration of English poetry at the close of the last 
century. Nor was our description of the highest kind, being 
deficient both in imaginativeness and in reality. It seldom 
betokened anything like that intimate, personal, thoughtful, du- 
tiful, and loving communion with Nature, which we perceive 
in every page of Wordsworth : and owing to this very want of 
familiarity with the realities, our poets could not deal with them 
as he does, shaping and moulding and combining and animating 
them, according to the impulses of his imagination, and calling 
forth new melodies and harmonies, to fill earth, sea, and sky. 
They did look at Nature through the spectacles of books. It 
was as though a number of eyes had been set in a row, like 
boys playing at leap-frog, each hinder one having to look 
through all that stood before it, and hence seeing Nature, not 
as it is in itself, but refracted and distorted by a number of 
more or less turbid media. Ever and anon too some one would 
be seized with the ambition of surpassing his predecessors, and 
would try by a feat at leap eye to get before them : in so doing 
however, from ignorance of the ground, he mostly stumbled 
and fell. Making an impotent effort after originality, he would 
attempt to vary the combinations of words in which former 
writers had spoken of the same objects: but, as one is ever 
liable to trip, and to violate idiom at least, if not grammar, 
when speaking a forein language, so by these aliens to Nature, 
and sojourners in the land of Poetry, images and expressions, 
which belonged to particular circumstances, or to particular 
phases of feeling, were often misapphed to circumstances and 
feelings with which they were wholly incongruous. When the 
jay spread out his peacock's tail, many of the quills were stick- 
ing up in the air. 

But though our descriptive poetry was mostly wanting both 
in imaginativeness and in reality, this did not disqualify it for 
being what is called picturesque. For picturesqueness, as it is 
commonly understood, consists not in looking at things as they 
really are, and as the sun or Homer look at them, nor in seeing 
them, as Shakspeare, Milton, Wordsworth see them, transfig- 
3* 



58 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



ured by the plastic power of the Imagination, but rather in 
seeing them arrayed in the associations of various kinds with 
which the course of ages has surrounded them. Painting, 
even historical painting, being mute, and poorly supplied with 
means for expressing new or remote combinations of thought, 
has ever succeeded best in representing that which is familiar 
and easy to be understood. It has so scanty a vocabulary to 
tell its story with, that its story must needs be a short one, and 
ought to be such that its outline and main features should be 
discernible at a glance. For it has to speak to the eye, which 
does not proceed cumulatively and step by step, and the impres- 
sions of wdiich are rather coinstantaneous than successive. Its 
business is to give the utmost accuracy, completeness, and del- 
icacy, to the details it makes use of in expressing such ideas as 
have already got possession of the popular mind, and form a 
portion of the popular belief. If it can do this, it can well 
refrain from seeking to utter new ideas, or going on a voyage 
of discovery into unknown regions of thought. Its stock in 
trade may be said to consist chiefly in commonplaces : and it 
no more tires of or by repeating them, than a rosebush tires 
of or by pouring forth roses, or than the sun tires of or by 
shining daily upon the same landscape. In poetry on the 
other hand commonplaces are worthless. Only so far as a 
work is original, only so far as a thought is original, either in 
its form and conception, or at least in its position and combina- 
tion, can it be said to be truly poetical. Poetry and Painting 
are indeed sister arts, as they have often been termed. But 
the sphere of each is totally distinct from that of the other : 
though they can be made to touch at any point, they cannot be 
made to coincide ; nor can they be brought to touch in more 
points than one at the same moment, without some bruise and 
injury to one or the other. Painting by the outward is to 
express the inward ; Poetry by the inward is to express the 
outward : but the main and immediate business of Painting is 
with, the outward, that of Poetry with the inward. That which 
Painting represents. Poetry describes : that w^iich Poetry rep- 
resents, Painting can only symbolize. Whenever this is for- 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



59 



gotten, it is hurtful to both. Fuseh, for instance, was always 
forgetting the painter, in striving to be a poet. Perhaps the 
same was sometimes too much the case with Hogarth. As- 
suredly it is so with Martin, and frequently with Turner, who 
would have been a still greater painter, had he not been per- 
petually striving to be more than a painter can be. On the 
other hand, when Poetry becomes picturesque, it is like Pros- 
pero casting away his wand, to take up a common sce^Dtre : 
and it will mostly have to learn that ordinary men are more 
unmanageable, not only than Ariels, but even than Calibans. 

In truth this has been one of the misfortunes of our poetry 
for the last hundred and fifty years, that it has been much 
more picturesque than poetical. To many of the excellences of 
painting indeed it has made little pretension. It has no fore- 
ground ; it has no background : it wants hght ; it wants shade : 
it wants an atmosphere : it wants the unity resulting from hav- 
ing all the parts placed at once before the eye. All these 
things are missing in descriptive poetry; though in epic and 
dramatic there are qualities that correspond to them. This is 
enough to shew how idle it is for Poetry to abandon its own 
domain, and try to set up its throne in the territory of its neigh- 
bour. Everything that our poets had to mention, was described 
and reflected upon. First one thing was described and reflected 
upon ; and then something else was described and reflected 
upon ; and then . . . some third thing was treated in the same 
way. The power of infusing life and exhibiting action is 
wanting. No word was supposed to be capable of standing 
alone ; all must have a crutch to lean on : every object must 
be attended by an epithet or two, or by a phrase, pickt out 
much as schoolboys pick theirs out of the Gradus, with little 
regard to any point except its fitting the verse, and not disturb- 
ing its monotonous smoothness. If it had ever been applied to 
the object by any poet, if it ever could be applied to it under 
any circumstances, this was enough: no matter whether it 
suited the particular occasion or no. The grand repository for 
all such phraseology was that translation of Homer, which has 
perhaps done more harm than any other work ever did to the 



60 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



literature of its country ; thus exactly reversing the fate of its 
original. For assuredly no human work ever exercised so 
powerful and beneficial an influence on the literature and arts 
of the people out of whom it sprang, as the Homeric poems. 
Nor can I think that there was much ground in point of fact for 
Plato's charge, of their having been injurious to religion and 
morality. The mischief had other sources, inherent in Poly- 
theism, and such as Natural Religion cannot quench. But as 
for Pope's translation, it has been a sort of poetic stage-ward- 
robe, to which anybody might resort for as much tinsel and 
tawdry lace, and as many Bristol diamonds, as he wanted, and 
where everybody might learn the welcome lesson, that the last 
thing to be thought of in writing verses is the meaning. 

Ever since the dawn of a better day on our poetry, descrip- 
tion and reflexion have still absorbed too large a portion of its 
energy. Few writers have kept it before their eyes so dis- 
tinctly as the authors of Count Julian and of Philip Van Arte- 
velde, that the great business and office of poetry is not to de- 
scribe, but to create, not to pour forth an everlasting singsong 
about mountains and fountains, and hills and rills, and flowers 
and bowers, and woods and floods, and roses and posies, and 
vallies and allies, but to represent human character and feeling, 
action and passion, the ceaseless warfare, and the alternate 
victories of Life and of Death. u. 



The line of Milton quoted above, in which Pandemonium is 
described as rising out of the earth, " like an exhalation," is 
supposed by Mr. Peck to be " a hint taken from some of the 
moving scenes and machines invented for the stage by Inigo 
Jones." This conjecture is termed very probable by Bishop 
Newton, in a note repeated by Dr. Hawkins, and by Mr. Todd ; 
and the latter tries to confirm it by an extract from an account 
of a Mask acted at Whitehall in 1637. Alas for poets, when 
the critics set about unraveling their thoughts ! when they 
even pretend to make out by what old bones their minds have 
been manured ! On seeing a poet overlaid by a copious vari- 
orum commentary, one is often reminded of Gulliver lying help- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



61 



less and stirless under the net that the Lilliputians had spun 
around him. Thus Malone suggests that, when Shakspeare 
made Lady Macbeth, in the trance of her bloody ambition, 
pray that heaven might not " peep through the blanket of the 
dark," he was probably thinking of " the coarse woolen curtain 
of his own theatre, through which probably, while the house 
was yet but half lighted, he had himself often peept.'' 

But to be serious : even if the Mask referred to had been 
acted in 1657, instead of 1637, and if Milton in that year had 
had eyes to see it with, I should still have been slow to believe 
that a thought so trivial could have crost his mind, when he 
was hovering on the outspread wings of his imagination over 
the abyss of hell. An eagle does not stoop after a grub. 
Sheridan indeed, who never scrupled to borrow, whether money 
or thoughts, and to pass them off for his own, might have 
caught such a hint from the stage. For, having no light in 
himself, he tried to patch up a mimic sun, by sticking together 
as many candles as he could lay hands on, — wax, mould, or 
rushlights, no matter which. Hence, brilhant as his comedies 
are, they want unity and life : they rather sparkle, than shine ; 
and are like a box of trinkets, not a beautiful head radiant with 
jewelry. Of Milton's mind, on the other hand, the leading 
characteristic is its unity. He has the thoughts of all ages at 
his command ; but he has made them his own. He sits " hio-h 

o 

on a throne of royal state, adorned With all the wealth of Or- 
mus and of Ind, And where the gorgeous East with richest 
hand Has showered barbaric pearl and gold." There are no 
false gems in him, no tinsel. It seems as if nothing could dwell 
in his mind, but what was grand and sterling. 

Besides, if we look at the passage, the " fabric huge " does 
not rise at once, as the commentators appear to have supposed, 
ready-made by a charm out of the earth, Hke a scene from the 
floor of a theatre ; which is thus strangely brought in to serve 
for a go-between in this simily; as though Milton, without such 
a hint, could not have thought of comparing the erection of 
Pandemonium to the rising of a mist. Such was the dignified 
severity of Milton's mind, that he has carefully abstained 



62 



GUESSES AT TEUTH. 



throughout Paradise Lost from everythmg like common magic. 
His spirits are superhuman ; and their actions are supernatural, 
but not unnatural or contranatural. That is, the processes by 
■which they accomplish their purposes are analogous to those by 
which men do so : they are subject to the same universal laws ; 
only their strength and speed are immeasurably greater. But 
he has nothing arbitrary, no capricious, fantastical transforma- 
tions. When anything appears to be such, there is always a 
moral purpose to justify it ; as in the sublime passage where 
the applause which Satan expects, is turned into "a dismal 
universal hiss," exemplifying how the most triumphant success 
in evil is in fact a sinking deeper and deeper in misery and 
shame. To a higher moral law the laws of Nature may bend, 
but not to a mere act of wilfulness. That Pandemonium was 
built aboveground, and not drawn up from underground, is clear 
from the previous account of the materials prepared for it. 
Milton wanted a council-chamber for his infernal conclave. Of 
course it was to surpass everything on earth in magnificence ; 
and it was to be completed almost instantaneously. Hence, 
instead of exhibiting the gradual process of a laborious accumu- 
lation, it seemed to spring up suddenly, to rise " like an ex- 
halation." 

This comparison may possibly have been suggested by the 
Homeric rjvr ofilx^t]. At least a recollection of Homer's image 
may have been floating in Milton's mind ; as it is clear that just 
after, when he says, the fabric rose " with the sound Of dulcet 
symphonies, and voices sweet," he must have been thinking of 
the legend of Amphion building the walls of Thebes. For his 
mind was such a treasury of learning, — he had so fed on the 
thoughts of former ages, transubstantiating them, to use his own 
expression, by " concoctive heat," — and the knowledge of his 
earlier years seems to have become so much more vivid and 
ebullient, when fresh influxes were stopt, — that one may 
allowably attribute all manner of learned allusions to him, pro- 
vided they are in harmony with his subject, and lie within the 
range of his reading. Many of these have been detected by his 
commentators : but the investigation is by no means exhausted. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



63 



Not a few of his allusions they have mist : others they have 
mistaken. 

For instance, in the note on the passage where Milton com- 
pares one of the regions of hell to " that great Serbonian bog 
Betwixt Damiata and Mount Casius old, Where armies whole 
have sunk," the modern editors, in a note taken from Patrick 
Hume, refer only to Herodotus and Lucan ; neither of whom 
says a word about armies being lost in the bog. I conclude 
therefore that no commentator has traced this passage to its 
real source in Diodorus Siculus (i. 30) ; where we are told, 
that " persons ignorant of the country, who approach the lake 
Serbonis, have to encounter unlookt-for perils. For the firth 
being narrow and like a fillet, and vast sandbanks lying round 
it on all sides, when the south wind blows for a continuance, a 
quantity of sand is driven over it. This covers the water, and 
renders the surface of the lake so like that of the land, as to be 
quite undistinguishable. Hence many who did not know the 
nature of the spot, missing the road, have been swallowed up, 
along with whole armies'' In a subsequent part of his History 
(xvi. 46), he says that Artaxerxes, in his expedition into 
Egypt, lost a part of his army there. The substance of the 
preceding passage is indeed given by George Sandys in his 
Travels, and thence extracted by Purchas, p. 913 ; but Milton's 
source was probably the Greek. For his historical allusions 
are often taken from Diodorus, with whom he seems to have 
been better acquainted than with the earlier historians, — the 
immense superiority of the latter not being generally recognised 
in those days; — and who, as Wakefield has shewn, was his 
authority for the beautiful passage about the mariners off at 
sea, senting " Sabean odours from the spicy shore Of Araby 
the blest." 

Other blind men, it is true, seldom quote books : but it is not 
so with Milton. The prodigious power, readiness, and accuracy 
of his memory, as well as the confidence he felt in it, are 
proved by his setting himself, several years after he had be- 
come totally blind, to compose his Treatise on Christian Doc- 
trine ; which, made up as it is of Scriptural texts, w^ould seem 



64 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



to require perpetual reference to the Sacred Volume. A still 
more extraordinary enterprise was that of the Latin Dictionaiy, 
— a work which^ one would imagine, might easily wear out a 
sound pair of eyes, but in which hardly any man could stir a 
couple of steps without eyes. Well might he, who, after five 
years of blindness, had the courage to undertake these two vast 
works, along with Paradise Lost, declare that he did "not bate 
a jot Of heart or hope, but still bore up and steered Uphill- 
wardr For this is the word which Milton at first used in his 
noble sonnet ; though for the sake of correctness, steering up- 
iiillward being a kind of pilotage which he alone practist, or 
which at all events is only practicable where the clogs of this 
material world are not dragging us down, he altered it into 
right onward. 

To return to the passage which led to this discussion : not 
only is Mr. Peck's conjecture at variance with Milton's concep- 
tion of the manner in which Pandemonium is constructed, and 
with the processes by which thoughts arise in the mind of a true 
poet, as incongruous as it would be for the sun to shoot his rays 
through a popgun : there is also a third objection, to which some 
may perhaps attach more weight; namely, the long interval 
which must have elapst since Milton saw the machinery referred 
to, if indeed he had ever seen it at all. Sheridan, as I have said, 
had he been at the play overnight, and been writing verses 
about Pandemonium the next morning, might have bethought 
himself that it would be a happy hit to make Pandemonium 
rise up like a palace in a pantomime. But even Sheridan 
would hardly have done this, unless the impression had been 
so recent and vivid, as to force itself upon the mind in despite 
of the more orderly laws of association. Now Milton can 
have seen nothing of the sort since the closing of the theatres 
in 1642. Nor is it likely that he was ever present at a Court- 
mask. But Inigo Joneses improvements in machinery were 
probably confined to the Court. For new inventions did not 
travel so fast in those days as now ; and the change of scene 
in Comus from the wood to the palace seems to have been 
effected in a different manner. At all events one should have 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



65 



to suppose that this spectacle, which Milton, if he ever saw it, 
would have forgotten forthwith, lay dormant in his mind for 
above fifteen years, until on a sudden, it started up unbidden, 
when he was describing the building of Pandemonium. 

That an antiquarian critic, like Mr. Peck, should have 
brought forward such a conjecture, may not be very wonder- 
ful. For it requires no little self-denial to resist the temptation 
of believing that we have hit on an ingenious thought : the 
more strange and out of the way the thought, the likelier is it 
to delude us. But that he should have found companions in 
his visionary ramble, — that a person like Bishop Newton, who 
Avas not without poetical taste, and who had not the same temp- 
tation to mislead him, should deem his conjecture very proba- 
ble, — that critic after critic should approve of it, — is indeed 
surprising. With regard to Mr. Todd however, we see from 
other places that he too has an itching for explaining poetry by 
the help of personal anecdotes. Thus he suggests that the two 
lines in the description of the castle in the Allegro, — " Where 
perhaps some beauty lies. The Cynosure of neighbouring eyes," 
— were designed as a compliment to the Countess of Derby, 
who had a house near Milton's father's at Horton. Yet in the 
same breath he tells us that she was already a grandmother ; 
and so, whatever she might have been in earlier days, she 
could hardly be any longer the Cynosure of neighbouring eyes, 
or even fancy that she was so. Therefore, unless Milton had 
expressly told her that she was his Cynosure, the compliment 
must have been wholly lost. And what need is there for sup- 
posing a particular reference to any one ? The imaginative 
process by which Milton animates his castle, is so simple and 
natural, that I believe there are few young men, who have ever 
read a tale of romance, in whose minds, when they have been 
passing by castles, especially if " bosomed high in tufted trees," 
the fancy has not sprung up, how lovely a sight it would be, 
were a beautiful damsel looking out from the turret-window. 
The very first novel I have happened to take up since writing 
the above, Arnim's Dolores, opens with a description of an old 
castle, with its little bright gardens in the turrets, where, he 

E 



66 



GUESSES AT TEUTH. 



says, " perchance beautiful princesses may be watching the 
passing knight among wreaths of flowers of their own train- 
ing." This is nothing but the ordinary w^orking of the Imagi- 
nation, " Which, if it would but apprehend some joy, Straight 
comprehends some bringer of that joy." 

These remarks would hardly have been worth making, un- 
less anecdotical explanations of poetry were so much in vogue. 
People of sluggish imaginations, whose thoughts seldom wander 
beyond the sphere of their eyes and ears, are glad to detect 
any mark in a great poet, which brings him down to their 
level, and proves that he could think of such matters as they 
themselves talk about with their neighbours. Moreover, as 
there is an irrepressible instinct of the understanding, which 
leads us to seek out the causes of things, they who have no 
eyes to discern the cause in the thing itself, look for it in some- 
thing round about. They fancy that every thought must needs 
have an immediate outward suggestment: and if they catch 
sight of a dry stick lying near a tree, they cry out, evprjKa I 
Here is one of the roots. 

The vanity of these anecdotical explanations is well re- 
proved by Buttmann in his masterly Essay on the supposed 
personal allusions in Horace. But unfortunately even his own 
countrymen have not all taken warning from his admonitions. 
An overfondness for these exercises of ingenuity is the chief 
fault in Dissen's otherwise valuable edition of Pindar : where, 
among a number of similar fantasies, we are told that the 
famous words, by which critics have been so much puzzled, 
apia-Tou pev vbcop, — which, as the context plainly shews, declare 
the superiority of water to the other elements, like that of the 
Olympic to the other games, — were merely meant by the poet 
to remind Hiero's guests that they ought to mix water with 
their wine: a conjecture which for impertinence is scarcely 
surpast by the notorious one, that Shakspeare served as a 
butcher's boy, because he has a simily about a calf driven to 
the shambles, and makes Hamlet say, " There 's a divinity that 
shapes our ends. Rough-hew them how we will." On equally 
valid grounds might we establish that he practist every trade, 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



67 



and was a native of every country under heaven : nay, that he, 
instead of Pythagoras, must have been the real Euphorbus, 
and that the souls of half mankind must have transmigrated 
into his. 

What then ! Is it essential to poetry, that there should be 
nothing personal and individual in it? nothing indicative of 
the poet's own feelings ? nothing drawn from his own experi- 
ence ? nothing to shew when, and where, and how, and with 
whom he has lived ? Is he to dwell aloof from the earth, as it 
were in a ring like Saturn's, looking down on it in cold abstrac- 
tion, without allowing any of its influences to come near him, 
and ruffle the blank mirror of his soul ? So far from it, that 
the poet, of all men, has the liveliest sympathy with the world 
around him, which to his eyes " looks with such a look," and to 
his ears " speaks with such a tone. That he almost receives its 
heart into his own." Nor has a critic any higher office, than 
that of tracing out the correspondence between the spirit of a 
great author, and that of his age and country. Illustrations of 
manners and customs too may be valuable, as filling up and 
giving reality to our conception of the world the poet saw 
around him. Only in such enquiries we must be on our guard 
against our constitutional tendency to mistake instruments for 
causes, and must keep in mind that the poet's own genius is the 
corner-stone and the keystone of his works. 

While we confine ourselves to generalities, we may endeav- 
our, and often profitably, to explain the growth and structure 
of a poet's mind, so far as it has been modified by circum- 
stances. But to descend to particulars, to deduce such and 
such a thought, or such and such an expression, from such and 
such an occasion, unless we have some historical ground to pro- 
ceed on, is hazardous and idle ; just as hazardous and idle as it 
would be to determine why a tree has put forth such and such 
a leaf, or to divine from what river or cloud the sea has drawn 
the watery particles which it casts up in such and such a wave. 
Generals, being few and lasting, we may apprehend : but par- 
ticulars are so numerous, indefinite, and fleeting, one might as 
easily mark out and catch a mote dancing in the sunbeam. 



68 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Not however that authentic information concerning the pro- 
cesses of a poet's mind, and the origin of his works, when 
attainable, is to be rejected. In a psychological view it may 
often be instructive. Even Walter Scott's confessions about 
the composition of his novels, external and superficial as they 
are, according to the character of his genius are not without 
interest. Benvenuto Cellini's one can hardly read without par- 
taking in his anxieties. Cowper's poems derive a fresh charm 
from their connexion with the incidents of his life. Above all, 
in Goethe's Memoirs, and of the other writings of his later 
years, we see the elements of his more genial works, and the 
nisus formativus which gave them unity and shape, exhibited 
with his own exquisite clearness, like the beautiful fibrous roots 
of a hyacinth in a glass of water. To take an image some- 
thing like that which he himself has aj)plied to Shakspeare, 
after j^ointing out the hours and the minutes which mankind 
has reacht in the great year of thought, he has opened the 
watch and enabled us to perceive the springs and the wheels. 

Here, to make my peace with anecdote-mongers, let me tell 
one relating to the origin of the finest statue of the greatest 
sculptor who has arisen since the genius of Greece droopt and 
wasted away beneath the yoke of Rome. An illustrious friend 
of mine, calling on Thorwaldsen some years ago, found him, as 
he said to me, in a glow, almost in a trance of creative energy. 
On his enquiring what had happened. My friend, my dear 
friend, said the sculptor, I have an idea, I have a work in my 
head, which will he worthy to live. A lad had been sitting to me 
some time as a model yesterday, tohen I hade him rest a while. 
In so doing he threw himself into an attitude which struck me 
very much. What a heautiful statue it woidd make! I said to 
myself But what woidd it do for ? It luould do . . . it would 
do . . . it would, do exactly for Mercury, drawing his sword, 
just after he has played Argus to sleep. I immediately hegan 
modeling. I workt all the evening, till at my usual hour I went 
to hed. But my idea would not let me rest. I was forced to 
get up again. I struck a light, and workt at my model for three 
or four hours ; after which I again went to hed. But again I 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



69 



could not rest : again I was forced to get up, and have been 
working ever since. jng friend, if I can hut execute my idea, 
it will be a glorious statue. 

And a noble statue it is ; although Thorwaldsen himself 
did not think that the execution came up to the idea. For I 
have heard of a remarkable speech of his made some years 
after to another friend, who found him one day in low spirits. 
Being askt whether anything had distrest him, he answered. 
My genius is decaying. — What do you mean ? said the visiter. 
— Why ! here is my statue of Christ : it is the first of my works 
that I have ever felt satisfied with. Till now my idea has 
always been far beyond what I could execute. But it is 7io 
longer so. I shall never have a great idea again. The same, 
I believe, must have been the case with all men of true ge- 
nius. While they who have nothing but talents, may often be 
astonisht at the effects they produce, by putting things together 
which fit more aptly than they expected ; a man of genius, who 
has had an idea of a whole in his mind, will feel that no out- 
ward mode of expressing that idea, whether by form, or col- 
ours, or words, is adequate to represent it. Thus Luther, 
when he sent Staupitz his Commentary on the Epistle to the 
Galatians, said to him i^Epist. clxii), " Nec jam adeo placent, 
quam placuerunt primum, ut videam potuisse latius et clarius 
eos exponi." Thus too Solger, writing about his dialogues to 
Tieck, says (i. p. 432), " Now that I have read them through 
again, I find that they are far from attaining to that which 
stood before my mind when I wrote them : I feel as though 
they were a mere extract or shadow thereof. My only conso- 
lation is, that so it must doubtless be with every one who has 
aimed at anything excellent, that the execution of his plan does 
not satisfy him." Hence it comes that men of genius have so 
often attacht the highest value to their less genial works. God 
alone could look down on His Creation, and behold that it was 
all very good. This contrast is remarkt by Bacon, and a grand 
use is made of it, at the close of the Introduction to the Novum 
Organum : " Tu postquam conversus es ad spectandum opera 
quae fecerunt manus Tuae, vidisti quod omnia essent bona 



70 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



valde, et requievisti. At homo conversus ad opera quae fece- 
runt manus suae, vidit quod omnia essent vanitas et vexatio 
spiritus, nee ullo modo requievit. Quare, si in operibus Tuis 
«udabimus, facies nos visionis Tuae et sabbati Tui participes." 

Thorwaldsen's Mercuiy, it appears, was suggested by a lad 
whom he had seen sitting at rest. But does that detract from 
the sculptor's genius ? Every other man living might have 
seen the lad ; and no statue of Mercury would have sprung 
out of the vision : even as millions upon millions before New- 
ton had seen apples drop, without being led thereby to meditate 
on universal gravitation. So that, though Genius does not 
wholly create its works out of nothing, its " mighty world " is 
not merely what it perceives, but what, as Wordsworth ex- 
presses it in his lines on the Wye, " it half creates." u. 



Another form of the same Materialism, which cannot com- 
prehend or conceive anything, except as the product of some 
external cause, is the spirit, so general in these times, which 
attaches an inordinate importance to mechanical inventions, 
and accounts them the great agents in the history of mankind. 
It is a common opinion with these exoteric philosophers, that 
the invention of printing was the chief cause of the Reforma- 
tion, that the invention of the compass brought about the dis- 
covery of America, and that the vast changes in the military 
and political state of Europe since the middle ages have been 
wrought by the invention of gunpowder. It would be almost 
as rational to say that the cock's crowing makes the sun rise. 
Bacon indeed, I may be reminded, seems to favour this notion, 
where, at the end of the First Book of the Novum Organum, 
he speaks of the power and dignity and efficacy of inventions, 
" quae non in aliis manifestius occurrunt, qiiam in illis tribus 
quae antiquis incognitae — sunt, Artis nimirum Imprimendi, 
Pulveris Tormentarii, et Acus Nauticae. Haec enim tria re- 
rum faciem et statum in orbe terrarum mutaverunt ; primum, 
in re litteraria; secundum, in re belHca ; tertium, in naviga- 
tionibus. Unde innumerae rerum mutationes secutae sunt ; ut 
non imperium aliquod, non secta, non stella, majorem efficaciam 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



71 



et quasi influxum super res humanas exercuisse videatur, quam 
ista mechanica exercuerunt." However, not to speak of the 
curious indication of a belief in astrology, it must be remem- 
bered that Bacon's express purpose in this passage is to assert 
the dignity of inventions, that is, not of the natural, material 
objects in themselves, but of those objects transformed and 
fashioned anew by the mind of man, to serve the great inter- 
ests of mankind. The difference between civilized and savage 
life, he had just said, " non solum, non coelum, non corpora, sed 
artes praestant." In other words, the difference lies, not in any 
material objects themselves, but in the intelligence, the mind, 
that employs them for its own ends. These very inventions 
had existed, the greatest of them for many centuries, in 
China, without producing any like result. For why? Be- 
cause the utiHty of an invention depends on our making use 
of it. There is no power, none at least for good, in any in- 
strument or weapon, except so far as there is power in him 
who wields it : nor does the sword guide and move the hand, 
but the hand the sword. Nay, it is the hand that fashions the 
sword. The means and instruments, as we see in China, may 
lie dormant and ineffective for centuries. But when man's 
spirit is once awake, when his heart is alert, when his mind 
is astir, he will always discover the means he wants, or make 
them. Here also is the saying fulfilled, that they who seek 
will find. 

Or we may look at the matter in another light. We may 
conceive that, whenever any of the great changes ordained by 
God's Providence in the destinies of mankind are about to take 
place, the means requisite for the effecting of those changes are 
likewise prepared by the same Providence. Niebuhr applied 
this to lesser things. He repeatedly expresses his conviction 
that the various vicissitudes by which learning has been pro- 
moted, are under the controU of an overruling Providence ; 
and he has more than once spoken of the recent discoveries, by 
which so many remains of Antiquity have been brought to 
light, as Providential dispensations, for the increase of our 
knowledge of God's works, and of His creatures. His convic- 



72 



GUESSES AT TEUTH. 



tion was, that, though Ave are to learn in the sweat of our brow, 
and though nothing good can be learnt without labour, yet here 
also everything is so ordered, that the means of knowing what- 
ever is needful and desirable may be discovered, if man will 
only be dihgent in cultivating and making the most of what 
has already been bestowed on him. He held, that to him Avho 
has will be given, — that not only will he be enabled to make 
increase of the talents he has received, but that he is sure to 
find others in his path. This way of thinking has been re- 
proved as profane, by those who yet would perhaps deem it 
impious if a man, when he cut his finger, or caught a cold, did 
not recognise a visitation of Providence in such accidents. 
Now why is this ? In all other things we maintain that man's 
labour is of no avail, unless God vouchsafes to bless it, — that, 
without God's blessing, in vain will the husbandman sow, in 
vain will the merchant send his ships abroad, in vain will the 
physician prescribe his remedies. Why then do we outlaw 
knowledge ? Why do we declare that the exercise of our 
intellectual powers is altogether alien from God ? Why do 
we exclude them, not only from the sanctuary, but even from 
the outer court of the temple ? Why do we deny that poets 
and philosophers, scholars and men of science, can serve God, 
each in his calling, as well as bakers and butchei-s, as well as 
hewers of wood and drawers of water ? 

It is true, there is often an upstart pride in the Understand- 
ing ; and we are still prone to fancy that Knowledge of itself 
will make us as gods. Though so large a part of our knowl- 
edge is derivative, from the teaching either of other men or of 
things, and though so small a tittle of it can alone be justly 
claimed by each man as his own, we are apt to forget this, and 
to regard it as all our own, as sprung, like Minerva, full-grown 
out of our own heads ; for this among other reasons, that, when 
we are pouring it forth, in whatsoever manner, its original 
sources are out of sight ; nor does anything remind us of the 
numberless tributaries by which it has been swelled. This ten- 
dency of Knowledge however to look upon itself as self-created 
and independent of God is much encouraged by the practice of 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



73 



the religious to treat it and speak of it as such. AVere we wise, 
we should discern that the intellectual, the natural, and the 
moral world are three concentric spheres in God's world, and 
that it is a robbery of God to cut off any one of them from Him, 
and give it up to the Prince of Darkness. As we read in the 
Book of Wisdom^ it is God, that hath given us certain knowledge 
of the tilings that are, to know how the world ivas made, and the 
operation of the elements, — the heginning, ending, and midst 
of the times, — the alterations of the turning of the sun, and 
the change of seasons, — the circuits of years, and the posi- 
tions of stars, — the natures of living creatures, and the furies 
of wild beasts, — the violence of winds, and the reasonings 
of men. 

Thus then does it behove us to deem of inventions, as instru- 
ments ordained for us, by the help of which we are to fulfill 
God's manifold purposes with regard to the destinies of man- 
kind. At the fit time the fit instrument shews itself. If it 
comes before its time, it is still-born : man knows not what to 
do with it ; and it wastes away. But w^hen the mind and heart 
and spirit of men begin to teem with new thoughts and feelings 
and desires, they always find the outward world ready to sup- 
ply them with the means requisite for realizing their aims. In 
this manner, when the idea of the unity of mankind had become 
more vivid and definite, — when all the speculations of History 
and Science and Philosophy were bringing it out in greater ful- 
ness, — when Poetry was becoming more and more conscious 
of its office to combine unity with diversity and multiplicity, 
and individuality with universality, — and wdien Religion was 
applying more earnestly to her great work of gathering all 
mankind into the many mansions in the one great house of the 
Eternal Father, — at this time, when men's hearts M^ere yearn- 
ing more than ever before for intercourse and communion, the 
means of communication and intercourse have been multiplied 
marvellously. This is good, excellent ; and we may well be 
thankful for it. Only let us be diligent in using our new gifts 
for their highest, and not merely for meaner purposes ; and let 
us beware of man's tendency to idolize the works of his own 
4 



74 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



hands. The Greek poet exclaimed with wonder at the terrible 
ingenuity of man, who had yoked the horse and the bull, and 
had crost the roaring sea : and still, though the immediate 
occasions of his wonder would be somewhat changed, he would 
cry, nohXa to, deivaj Kovdev dvdpwnov deivurepov TreXet. But, 
though a Heathen, he kept clear of the twofold danger of wor- 
shipping either man or his work. May we do so likewise ! 
For there is not a whit to choose between the worship of steam, 
and that of the meanest Fetish in Africa. Nor is the worship 
of Man really nobler or wiser. u. 

I spoke some pages back of Greek literature as being char- 
acterized by its aarreTos alBrjp, its serene, transparent brightness. 
Ought I not rather to have said that this is the characteristic of 
the Christian mind, of that mind on which the true Light has 
indeed risen ? Not, it appears to me, so far as that mind has 
been manifested in its works of poetry and art ; at least with 
the exception of a starry spirit here and there, such as Fra 
Angelico da Fiesole and Raphael. For the Greeks lookt 
mainly, and almost entirely, at the outward, at that which could 
be brought in distinct and definite forms before the eye of the 
Imagination. To this they were predisposed from the first by 
their exquisite animal organization, which gave them a lively 
susceptibility for every enjoyment the outward world could 
oflTer, but which at the same time was so muscular and tightly 
braced as not to be overpowered and rendered effeminate there- 
by : and this their natural tendency to receive delight from the 
active enjoyment of the outward world found everything in the 
outward world best fitted to foster and strengthen it. The 
climate and country were such as to gratify every appetite for 
pleasurable sensation, without enervating or relaxing the frame, 
or allowing the mind to sink into an Asiatic torpour. They 
rewarded industry richly : but they also called for it, and would 
not pamper sloth. By its physical structure Greece gave its 
inhabitants the hardihood of the mountaineer. Yet the Greeks 
were not like other mountaineers, whose minds seem mostly to 
have been bounded by their own narrow horizon, so as hardly 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



75 



to take count of what was going on in the world without : to 
which cause may in a great measure be ascribed the intellectual 
barrenness of mountainous countries, or, if this be too strong an 
expression, the scantiness of the great works they have pro- 
duced, when compared with the feehngs which we might sup- 
pose they would inspire. But the Greek was not shut in by 
his mountains. Whenever he scaled a hight, the sea spread 
out before him, and wooed him to come into her arms, and to 
let her bear him away to some of the smihng islands she en- 
circled. Hence, hke the hero, who in his Homeric form is 
perhaps the best representative of the Greek character, iroXXav 
dp6po)7T(ou Uev aarea, Kai voov €yv<a. He had the two great 
Stimulants to enterprise before him. The voice of the Moun- 
tains, and the voice of the Sea, " each a mighty voice," were 
ever rousing and stirring and prompting him ; each moreover 
checking the hurtful effects of the other. The sea enlarged the 
range and scope of his thoughts, which the mountains might 
have hemmed in. Thus it saved him from the homely wits," 
which Shakspeare ascribes to " home-keeping youth." The 
mountains on the other hand counteracted that homelessness, 
which a mere sea-life is apt to breed, except in those in whom 
there is a living consciousness that on the sea as on the shore 
they are equally in the hand of God : to which homelessness, 
and want of a solid ground to strike root in, it is mainly owing 
that neither Tyre nor Carthage, notwithstanding their power 
and wealth, occupies any place in the intellectual history of 
mankind. To the Greeks however, as to us, who have a coun- 
try and a home upon the land, the sea was an inexhaustible 
mine of intellectual riches. Nor is it without a prophetic sym- 
bolicalness that the sea fills so important a part in both the 
Homeric poems. The amphibious character of the Greeks was 
already determined: they were to be lords of land and sea. 
Both these voices too, " Liberty's chosen music," as Words- 
worth terms them in his glorious sonnet, called the Greeks to 
freedom : and nobly did they answer to the call, when the 
sound of the mighty Pan was glowing in their ears, at Mara- 
thon and Thermopylae, at Salamis and Platea. 



76 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Freedom moreover, and the free forms of their constitutions, 
brought numerous opportunities and demands for outward ac- 
tivity. The Greek poets and historians were also soldiers and 
statesmen. They had to deal with men, to act with them, and 
by them, and upon them, in the forum, and in the field. Their 
converse was with men in the concrete, as Hving agents, not 
with the abstraction, man, nor with the shadowy, self-reflecting 
visions of the imagination. Even at the present day, though 
our habits and education do so much to remove the distinctions 
among the various classes of society, there is a manifest differ- 
ence between those authors who have taken an active part in 
public life, and those who are mere men of letters. The former, 
though they may often be deficient in speculative power, and 
unskilled in the forms of literature, have a knowledge of the 
practical springs of action, and a temperance of judgement, 
which is seldom found in a recluse, unaccustomed to meet with 
resistance among his own thoughts, or apt to slip away from it 
when he does, and therefore unpractist in bearing or dealing 
with it. That mystic seclusion, so common in modern times, as 
it has always been in Asia, was scarcely known in Greece. 
Even the want of books, and the consequent necessity of going 
to things themselves for the knowledge of them, sharpened the 
eyes of the Greeks, and gave them livelier and clearer percep- 
tions : Avhereas our eyes are dimmed by poring over the records 
of what others have seen and thought ; and the impressions we 
thus obtain are much less vivid and true. 

Added to all this, their anthropomorphic Religion, which 
sprang in the first instance out of these very tendencies of the 
Greek mind, reacted powerfully upon them, as the free exercise 
of every faculty is wont to do, and exerted a great influence in 
keeping the Greeks within the sphere which Nature seemed to 
assign to them, by preventing their thinking or desiring to 
venture out of that sphere, and by teaching them to find con- 
tentment and every enjoyment they could imagine within it. 
For it was by abiding within it that they were as gods. The 
feeling exprest in the speech of Achilles in Hades was one in 
which the whole people partook : 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



77 



^ov\o'inr]V K endpovpos ecov BrjTevepev aXXcp, 
^ iraaiv vcKveacrc KaTa(j)6iiievoi(Tiu dvaaaeiv. 

Through the combined operation of these causes, the Greeks 
acquired a clearness of vision for all the workings of life, and 
all the manifestations of beauty, far beyond that of any other 
people. Whatever they saw, they saw thoroughly, almost 
palpably, with a sharpness incomprehensible in our land of 
books and mists. 

To mention a couple of instances : the anatomy of the older 
Greek statues is so perfect, that Mr. Haydon, — whose scat- 
tered dissertations on questions of art, rich as they often are in 
genius and thought, well deserve to be collected and preserved 
from a newspaper grave, — in his remarks on the Elgin mar- 
bles, pledged himself that, if any one were to break off a toe 
from one of those marbles, he would prove " the great conse- 
quences of vitality, as it acts externally, to exist in that toe." 
Yet it is very doubtful whether the Greeks ever anatomized 
human bodies, — at all events they knew hardly anything of 
anatomy scientifically, from an examination of the internal 
structure, — before the Alexandrian age. Now, even with the 
help of our scientific knowledge, it is a rarity in modern art to 
find figures, of which the anatomy is not in some respect faulty ; 
at least Avhere the body is not either almost entirely concealed 
by drapery, or cased, like the yolk of an egg, in the soft albu- 
men of a pseudo-ideal. "When it is otherwise, as in the works 
of Michael Angelo and Annibal Caracci, we too often see 
studies, rather than works of art, and muscular contortions and 
convolutions, instead of the gentle play and flow of life. Mr. 
Haydon indeed contends that the Greek sculptors must have 
been good anatomists : but all historical evidence is against this 
supposition. The truth is, that, as such wonderful stories are 
told of the keen eyes which the wild Indians have for all man- 
ner of tracks in their forests, so the Greeks had a clear and 
keen-sightedness in another direction, which to us, all whose 
perceptions are mixt up with such a bundle of multifarious 
notions, and who see so many things in everything, beside 
what we really do see, appears quite inconceivable. They 



78 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Studied life, not as we do, in death, but in life ; and that not 
in the stiff, crampt, inanimate life of a model, but in the fresh, 
buoyant, energetic life, which was called forth in the gym- 
nasia. 

Another striking example of the accuracy of the Greek eye 
is supplied by a remark of Spurzheim's, that the heads of all 
the old Greek statues are in perfect accordance with his system, 
and betoken the very intellectual and moral qualities which the 
character was meant to be endowed with; although in few 
modern statues or busts is any correspondence discoverable 
between the character and the shape of the head. For ground- 
less and erroneous as may be the psychological, or, as the 
authors themselves term them, the phrenological views, which 
have lately been set forth as the scientific anatomy of the 
human mind, it can hardly be questioned that there is a great 
deal of truth in what Coleridge {Friend iii. p. 62) calls the 
indicative or gnomonic part of the scheme, or that Gall was an 
acute and accurate observer of those conformations of the skull, 
which are the ordinary accompaniments, if not the infallible 
signs, of the various intellectual powers. But in these very 
observations he had been anticipated above two thousand years 
ago by the unerring eyes of the Greek sculptors. 

In like manner do the Greeks seem, by a kind of intuition, 
to have at once caught the true principles of proportion and 
harmony and grace and beauty in all things, — in the human 
figure, in architecture, in all mechanical works, in style, in the 
various forms and modes of composition. These principles, 
which they discerned from the first, and which other nations 
have hardly known anything of, except as primarily derivative 
from them, they exemplified in that wonderful series of master- 
pieces, from Homer down to Plato and Aristotle and Demos- 
thenes ; a series of which we only see the fragments, but the 
mere fragments of which the rest of the world cannot match. 
Rome may have more regal majesty ; modern Europe may be 
superior in wisdom, esjDCcially in that wisdom of which the owl 
may serve as the emblem : but in the contest of Beauty no one 
could hesitate ; the apple must be awarded to Greece. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



79 



This is what I meant by speaking of the aaireros al6r]p of 
Greek Uterature. The Greeks saw what they saw thoroughly. 
Their eyes were piercing; and they knew how to use them, 
and to trust them. In modern literature, on the other hand, 
the pervading feeling is, that we see through a glass darkly. 
While with the Greeks the unseen world was the world of 
shadows, in the great works of modern times there is a more 
or less conscious feeling that the outward world of the eye is 
the world of shadows, that the tangled web of life is to be 
swept away, and that the invisible world is the only abode of 
true, living realities. How strongly is this illustrated by the 
contrast between the two great works which stand at the head 
of ancient and of Christian literature, the Homeric poems, and 
the Divina Commedia! While the former teem with life, like 
a morning in spring, and everything in them, as on such a 
morning, has its life raised to the highest pitch, Dante's wan- 
derings are all through the regions beyond the grave. He 
begins with overleaping death, and leaving it behind him ; and 
to his imagination the secret things of the next world, and its 
inhabitants, seem to be more distinctly and vividly present than 
the persons and things around him. Nor was Milton's home 
on earth. And though Shakspeare's was, it was not on an 
earth lying quietly beneath the clear, blue sky. How he 
drives the clouds over it ! how he flashes across it ! Ever and 
anon indeed he sweeps the clouds away, and shines down 
brightly upon it, — but only for a few moments together. 
Thus too has it been with all those in modern times whose 
minds have been so far opened as to see and feel the mystery 
of life. They have not shrunk from that mystery in reverent 
awe like the Greeks, nor planted a beautiful, impenetrable 
grove around the temple of the Furies. While the Greeks, as 
I said just now, could not dream of anatomizing life, we have 
anatomized everything : and whereas all their works are of the 
day, a large portion of ours might fitly be designated by the 
title of Night Thoughts. As to the frivolous triflers, who take 
things as they are, and skip about and sip the surface, they are 
no more to be reckoned into account in estimating the charac- 



80 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



ter of an age, than a man would take the flies and moths into 
account in drawing up an inventory of his chattels. 

Perhaps however the reason why modern literature has not 
had more of this serenity and brightness, is that it has so sel- 
dom been animated by the true spirit of Christianity in any 
high degree. A little knowledge will merely unsettle a man's 
prejudices, without giving him anything better in their stead: 
and Christianity, intellectually as well as morally, unless it be 
indeed embraced with a longing and believing heart, serves 
only to make our darkness visible. The burning and shining 
lights of Christianity have rather been content to shine in the 
vallies : those on the hills have mostly been lights of this world, 
and therefore flaring and smoking; For individual Christians 
there are, individual Christians, I believe, there have been in 
all ages, whose spirits do indeed dwell in the midst of an aaneros 
aWrjp. Nay, as Coleridge once said to me, "that in Italy the 
sky is so clear, you seem to see beyond the moon," so are there 
those who seem to look beyond and through the heavens, into 
the very heaven of heavens. u. 

Thirlwall, in his History, — in which the Greeks have at 
length been called out of their graves by a mind combining 
their own clearness and grace with the wealth and power of 
modern learning and thought, and at whose call, as at that of a 
kindred spirit, they have therefore readily come forth, — re- 
marks, that Greece " is distinguisht among European countries 
by the same character which distinguishes Europe itself from 
the other continents, — the great range of its coast, compared 
with the extent of its surface." The same fact, and its impor- 
tance, are noticed by Frederic Schlegel in his second Lecture 
on the Philosophy of History. Nothing could be more favor- 
able as a condition, not only of political and commercial, but 
also of intellectual greatness. Indeed this might be added to 
the long list of grounds for the truth of the Pindaric saying, 
apio-Tov fiev vdcop, and would suggest itself in an ode addrest to 
Hiero far more naturally and appropriately than the superiority 
of wine and water to wine ; a superiority which it may be a 



GUESSES AT TEUTH. 



81 



mark of barbarism to deny, but which few EngUshmen would 
acknowledge. 

A similar extent of coast was also one of the great advan- 
tages of Italy, and is now one of the greatest in the local con- 
dition of England. Goethe, who above all men had the talent 
of expressing profound and farstretching thoughts in the sim- 
plest words, and whose style has more of hght in it, with less 
of lightning, than any other writer's since Plato, has thrown 
out a suggestion in one of his reviews (vol. xlv. p. 227), that 
"perhaps it is the sight of the sea from youth upward, that 
gives English and Spanish poets such an advantage over those 
of inland countries." He spoke on this point from his own 
feelings : for he himself never saw the sea, till he w^ent to Italy 
in his 38th year : and it is ingeniously remarkt by Francis 
Horn, though apparently without reference to Goethe's obser- 
vation, in his History of German Poetry and Eloquence (iii. p. 
225), that "whatever is indefinite, or seems so, is out of keep- 
ing with Goethe's whole frame of mind : everything with him 
is terra jirma or an island : there is nothing of the infinitude of 
the sea. This conviction (he adds) forced itself, upon me, 
when for the first time, at the northernmost extremity of Ger- 
many, I felt the sweet thrilling produced by the highest sublim- 
ity of Nature. Here Shakspeare alone comes forward, whom 
one finds everywhere, on mountains and in vallies, in forests, 
by the side of rivers and of brooks. Thus far Goethe may 
accompany him : but in sight of the sea, and of such rocks on 
the sea, Shakspeare is by himself." Solger, too, in one of his 
letters (i. p. 320), when speaking of his first sight of the sea, 
says, " Here for the first time I felt the impression of the illim- 
itable, as produced by an object of sense, in its full majesty." 

To us, who have been familiar with the Sea all our lives, it 
might almost seem as though our minds would have been " poor 
shrunken things," without its air to brace and expand them, — 
if for instance we had never seen the dvrjpidiiou -ycXatr/xa of the 
weaves, as Aphrodite rises from their bosom, — if we had never 
heard the many-voiced song with which the Nereids now hymn 
the bridal, now bewail the bereavement of Thetis, — if we 
4* F 



82 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



knew not how changeful the Sea is, and yet how constant and 
changeless amid all the changes of the seasons, — if we knew 
not how powerful she is, whom Winter with all his chains can 
no more bind than Xerxes could, how powerful to destroy in 
her fury, how far more powerful to bless in her calmness, — if 
we had never learnt the lesson of obedience and of order from 
her, the lesson of ceaseless activity, and of deep, unfathomable 
rest, — if we had no sublunary teacher but the mute, motionless 
earth, — if we had been deprived of this ever faithful mirror 
of heaven. The Sea appears to be the great . separator of 
nations, the impassable barrier to all intercourse : dissociahilis 
the Roman poet calls it. Yet in fact it is the grand medium of 
intercourse, the chief uniter of mankind, the only means by 
which the opposite ends of the earth hold converse as though 
they were neighbours. Thus in divers ways the Trdtros arpvycros 
has become even more productive, than if fields of corn were 
waving all over it. 

That it has been an essential condition in the civilizing of 
nations, all history shews. Perhaps the Germans in our days 
are the first people who have reacht any high degree of cul- 
ture, — who have become eminent in poetry and in thought, — 
without its immediate aid. Yet Germany has been called " she 
of the Danube and the Northern Sea ; " and might still more 
justly be called she of the Rhine. For the Danube, not bring- 
ing her into connection with the sea, has had a less powerful 
influence on her destinies : whereas the Rhine has acted a 
more important part in her history, than any river in that of 
any other country, except the Nile. 

Hence the example of Germany will not enable us to con- 
ceive how such a people as Ulysses was to go in search of, — 
01 ovK 'iaaai ddXacraav oibe ff aXeaai [xeixiyixeuov ei'Sap eSov- 

a-iv, — how those who, not knowing the sea, have no salt to 
season their thoughts with, — how the Russians for instance^ 
can ever become civilized ; notwithstanding what Peter tried 
to effect, from a partial consciousness of this want, by building 
his capital on the Baltic. Still less can one imagine , how the 
centre of Asia, or of Africa, can ever emerge out of barbarism ; 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



83 



unless indeed the Steam-king be destined hereafter to effect, 
what the Water-king in his natural shape cannot. Genius or 
knowledge, springing up in those regions, would be like a foun- 
tain in an oasis, unable to mingle with its kindred, and unite 
into a continuous stream. Or if such a thing as a stream w^ere 
to be found there, it Avould soon be swallowed up and lost, from 
having no sea wdthin reach to shape its course to. In the 
legends Neptune is represented as contending with Minerva for 
the honour of giving name to Athens, and with Apollo for the 
possession of Corinth. But in fact he wrought along with 
them, — and mighty was his aid, — in glorifying their favorite 
cities. 

There is also a further point of analogy between the position 
of Greece and that of England. Greece, lying on the frontier 
of Europe toward Asia, was the link of union between the tw^o, 
the country in which the practical European understanding 
seized, and gave a living, productive energy to the primeval ideas 
of Asia. Her sons carried off Europa with her letters from 
Phenicia, and Medea with her magic from Colchis. When the 
Asiatics, attempting reprisals, laid hands on her Queen of 
Beauty, the whole nation arose, and sallied forth from their 
homes, and bore her back again in triumph : for to whom could 
she belong rightfully and permanently, except to a Greek ? If 
lo went from them into Egypt, it was to become the ancestress 
of Hercules. 

Now England in like manner is the frontier of Europe to- 
ward America, and the great bond of connexion between them. 
Through us the mind of the Old World passes into the New. 
What our intellectual office may be in this respect, will be seen 
hereafter, when it becomes more apparent and determinate, 
what the character of the American mind is to be. At present 
England is the country, where that depth and inwardness of 
thought, which seems to belong to the Germanic mind, has 
assumed the distinct, outward, positive form of the Roman. 

An intermixture of the same elements has also taken place 
in France, but with a very different result. In the English 
character, as in our language, the Teutonic or spiritual element 



84 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



has fortunately been predominant ; and so the two factors have 
coalesced without detriment : while in France, where the Roman 
or formal element gained the upperhand, the consequence has 
been, that they have almost neutralized and destroyed each 
other. The ideas of the Germans waned into abstractions : the 
law and order of the Romans shriveled into rules and forms, 
which no idea can impregnate, but which every insurgent ab- 
straction can overthrow. The externality of the classical spirit 
has worn away into mere superficiality. The French character 
is indeed a character, stampt upon them from without. Their 
profoundest thoughts are hons mots. They are the only nation 
that ever existed, in which a government can be hist off the 
stage like a bad play, and which its fall excites less consterna- 
tion, than the violation of a fashion in dress. 

In truth the ease and composure with which the Revolution 
of July 1830 was accomplisht, and by which almost everybody 
was so dazzled, notwithstanding the fearful lessons of forty 
years before, — when in like manner Satan appeared at first as 
an angel of light, and when all mankind were deluded, and 
worshipt the new-born fiend, — would have been deemed by a 
wise observer one of the saddest features about it. O let us 
bleed when we are wounded ! let not our wounds close up, as if 
nothing had been cleft but a shadow ! It is better to bleed even 
to death, than to live without blood in our veins. And in truth 
blood will flow. If it does not flow in the field from principle, 
it is sure to flow in tenfold torrents by the guillotine, through 
that ferocity, which, when Law and Custom are overthrown, 
nothing bat Principle can keep in check. Hearts and souls 
will bleed, or will fester and rot. 

A Frenchman might indeed urge, that his patron saint is 
related in the legend not to have felt the loss of his head, and 
to have walkt away after it had been cut off, just as well as if 
it had been standing on his shoulders. But where no miracle is 
in the case, it is only the lowest orders of creatures that are quite 
as brisk and lively after decapitation as before. 1836. u. 



I hate to see trees poUarded . . or nations. 



u. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



85 



Europe was conceived to be on the point of dissolution. 
Burke heard the death-watch, and rang the alarm. A hollow 
sound past from nation to nation, like that which announces the 
splitting and breaking up of the ice in the regions around the 
Pole. Well ! the politicians and economists, and the doctors in 
statecraft, resolved to avert the stroke of vengeance, not indeed 
by actions like those of the Curtii and Decii ; — such actions 
are extravagant, and chivalrous, and superstitious, and patri- 
otic, and heroic, and self-devoting, and unworthy and unseemly 
in men of sense, who know that selfishness is the only source of 
good ; — but by borrowing a device from the Arabian fabulist. 
They seem to have thought they should appease, or at least 
weary out the minister of wrath, if they could get him to hear 
through their thousand and one Constitutions. u. 

From what was said just now about the French character, as 
a combination the factors of which have almost neutralized each 
other, it follows that the French are the very people for that 
mode of life and doctrine, which has become so notorious under 
the title of the Juste milieu, and which aims at reconciling oppo- 
sites by a mechanical, or at the utmost by a chemical, instead of 
an organical union. It is only in the latter, when acting to- 
gether under the sway of a constraining higher principle, that 
powers, which, if left to themselves, thwart and battle against 
each other, can be made to bring forth peace and its fruits. 
According to the modern theory however, the best way of pro- 
ducing a new being is not by the marriage of the man and 
woman, but by taking half of each, and tying them one to the 
other. The result, it is true, will not have much life in it : but 
what does that matter ? It is manufactured in a moment : the 
whole work goes on before the eyes of the world : and the new 
creature is fuUsized from the first. How stupid and impotent 
on the other hand is Nature ! who hides the germs and first 
stirrings of all life in darkness ; who is always forced to begin 
with the minutest particles ; and who can produce nothing great, 
except by slow and tedious processes of growth and assimila- 
tion. How tardily and snail-like she crawls about her task ! 



86 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



She never does anything per saltum. She cannot get to the 
end of her journey, as we can, in a trice, by a hop, a skip, and 
a jump. It takes her a thousand years to grow a nation, and 
thousands to grow a philosopher. 

Amen ! so be it ! Man, when he is w^orking consciously, 
does not know how to w^ork imperceptibly. He cannot trust to 
Time, as Nature can, in the assurance that Time will work with 
her. For, while Time fosters and ripens Nature's works, he 
only crumbles man's. It is well imagined, that the creature 
whom Frankenstein makes, should be a huge monster. Being 
unable to impart a living power of growth and increase by any 
effort of our will or understanding, or except when we are con- 
tent to act in subordination to nature, we try, when we set 
about any work, on which we mean to pride ourselves as espe- 
cially our own, to render it as big as we can ; so that, size being 
our chief criterion of greatness, we may have the better warrant 
for falling down and worshipping it. Thus Frankenstein's man- 
monster is an apt type of the numerous, newfangled, hop-skip- 
and-jump Constitutions, which have been circulating about Eu- 
rope for the last half century ; in which the old statesmanly 
practice of enacting new^ ordinances and institutions, as occasion 
after occasion arises, has been superseded by attempts to draw 
up a complete abstract code for all sorts of states, without regard 
to existing rights, usages, manners, feelings, to the necessities 
of the country, or the character of the people. Indeed the fol- 
lowing description of the monster, when he first begins to move, 
might be regarded as a satire on the Constitution of 1791. 
" His limbs were in proportion ; and I had selected his features 
as beautiful. Beautiful ! His yellow skin scarcely covered the 
muscles and arteries beneath. His hair was of a lustrous black, 
and flowing, — his teeth of a pearly w^iiteness : but these only 
formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, which 
seemed almost of the same colour as their dun white sockets, 
his shriveled complexion, and straight, black lips." So it is 
with abstract constitutions. Their fabricaters try to make their 
parts proportionate, and to pick out the most beautiful features 
for them : but there are muscular and arterial workings ever 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



87 



going on in the body of a nation, there is such an intermingling 
and convolution of passions, and feelings, and consciousnesses, and 
thoughts, and desires, and regrets, and sorrows, that no yellow 
parchment, which man can draw over, will cover or hide them. 
Though the more external and lifeless parts, the hair and 
teeth, which are so often artificial, may be bright and dazzling, 
— though the teeth especially may be well fitted for doing their 
work of destruction, — no art can give a living eye : ofXfxaTojv S' 

The man-monster's cruelty too was of the same sort as that 
of the French constitution-mongers, and of their works ; and it 
resulted from the same cause, the utter want of sympathy with 
man and the world, such as they are. The misfortune is, that 
we cannot get rid of them, as he was got rid . of, by sending 
them to the North Pole ; although its ice would be an element 
very congenial to the minds that gave birth to them, and would 
form a fitting grave for monstrosities, which, starting up in the 
frozen zone of human nature, were crystallized from their 
cradle. 1836. u. 



The strength of a nation, humanly speaking, consists not in 
its population or wealth or knowledge, or in any other such 
heartless and merely scientific elements, but in the number of 
its proprietors. Such too, according to the most learned and 
wisest of historians, was the opinion of antiquity. "All an- 
cient legislators (says Niebuhr, when speaking of Numa), and 
above all Moses, rested the result of their ordinances for 
virtue, civil order, and good manners, on securing landed 
property, or at least the hereditary possession of land, to the 
greatest possible number of citizens." 

They who are not aware of the manner in which national 
character and political institutions mutually act and are acted 
on, till they gradually mould each other, have never reflected 
on the theory of new shoes. Which leads me to remark, that 
modern constitution-mongers have shewn themselves as unskil- 
ful and inconsiderate in making shoes, as the old limping, sore- 



88 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



footed aristocracies of the Continent have been intractable and 
impatient in wearing them. The one insisted that the boot 
must fit, because, after the fashion of Laputa, it had been cut 
to diagram : the others would bear nothing on their feet in any 
degree hard or common. Leather is the natural covering of ike 
hands : on them we will still wear it : on the legs it is ignoble 
and masculine. Any other sacrifice we are content to make : but 
our feet must continue as heretofore, swathed up in fleecy ho- 
siery, especially when ive ride or walk. It is a reward we may 
justly claim for condescending to acts so toilsome. It is a priv- 
ilege we have inherited, with the gout of our immortal ancestors ; 
and loe cannot in honour give it up. But you say, the privilege 
must be abolisht, because the commodity is scarce. Let the people 
then make their sacrifice, and give up stockings. 

Beauty is perfection unmodified by a predominating ex- 
pression. 

Song is the tone of feeling. Like poetry, the language of 
feeling, art should regulate, and perhaps temper and modify it. 
But whenever such a modification is introduced as destroys the 
predominance of the feeling, — which yet happens in ninety-nine 
settings out of a hundred, and with nine hundred and ninety-nine 
taught singers out of a thousand, — the essence is sacrificed to 
what should be the accident ; and we get notes, but no song. 

If song however be the tone of feeling, what is beautiful sing- 
ing ? The balance of feeling, not the absence of it. 



Close boroughs are said to be an oligarchal innovation on 
the ancient Constitution of England. But are not the forty- 
shilling freeholders, in their present state, a democratical 
innovation ? The one may balance and neutralize the other ; 
and if so, the Constitution will remain practically unaltered 
by the accession of these two new, opposite, and equal powers. 
Whereas to destroy the former innovation, without taking away 
the latter, must change the system of our polity in reality, as 
well as in idea. 1826. * l. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



89 



When the pit seats itself in the boxes, the gallery will soon 
drive out both, and occupy the whole of the house. a. 

In like manner, when the calculating, expediential Under- 
standing has superseded the Conscience and the Reason, the 
Senses soon rush out from their dens, and sweep away every- 
thing before them. If there be nothing brighter than the 
reflected light of the moon, the wild beasts will not keep in 
their lair. And when that moon, after having reacht a mo- 
ment of apparent glory, by looking full at the sun, fancies it 
may turn away from the sun, and still have light in itself, it 
straightway begins to wane, and ere long goes out altogether, 
leaving its w^orshipers in the darkness, which they had vainly 
dreamt it would enlighten. This was seen in the Roman Em- 
pire. It was seen in the last century all over Europe, above 
all in France. u. 



He who does not learn from events, rejects the lessons of 
Experience. He who judges from the event, makes Fortune 
an assessor in his judgements. 



What an instance of the misclassifications and misconcep- 
tions produced by a general term is the common mistake, which 
looks on the Greeks and Romans as one and the same people? 
because they are both called ancients ! 



The difference between desultory reading and a course of 
study may be illustrated by comparing the former to a number 
of mirrors set in a straight line, so that every one of them 
reflects a different object, the latter to the same mirrors so skil- 
fully arranged as to perpetuate one set of objects in an endless 
series of reflexions. 

If we read two books on the same subject, the second leads 
us to review the statements and arguments of the first ; the 
errours of which are little likely to escape this kind of proving, 
if I may so call it; while the truths are more strongly im- 
printed on the memory, not merely by repetition, — though 



90 



GUESSES AT TEUTH. 



that too is of use, — but by the deeper conviction thus wrought 
into the mind, of their being verily and indeed truths. 

Would you restrict the mind then to a single line of study ? 

No more than the body to any single kind of labour. The 
sure way of cramping and deforming both is to confine them 
entirely to an employment which keeps a few of their powers 
or muscles in strong, continuous action, leaving the rest to 
shrink and stiffen from inertness. Liberal exercise is neces- 
sary to both. For the mind the best perhaps is Poetry. Ab- 
stract truth, which in Science is ever the main object, has no 
link to attach our sympathies to man, nay, rather withers the 
fibres by which our hearts would otherwise lay hold on him, 
absorbing our affections, and diverting them from man, who, 
viewed in the concrete, and as he exists, is the antipode of 
abstract truth. High therefore and precious must be the worth 
and benefit of Poetry ; which, taking men as individuals, and 
shedding a strong light on the portions and degrees of truth 
latent in every human feeling, reconciles us to our kind, and 
shews that a devotion to truth, however it may alienate the 
mind from man, only unites it more affectionately to men, in 
their various relations of love (for love is truth), as children, 
and fathers, and husbands, and citizens, and, one day perhaps 
much more than it has hitherto done, as Christians. 



Vice is the greatest of all Jacobins, the arch-leveler. 



A democracy by a natural process degenerates into an ochlo- 
cracy : and then the hangman has the fairest chance of becom- 
ing the autocrat. a. 

Many of the supposed increasers of knowledge have only 
given a new name, and often a worse, to what was well known 
before. u. 



God did not make harps, nor pirouettes, nor crayon-drawing, 
nor the names of all the great cities in Africa, nor conchology, 
nor the Contes Moraux, and a proper command of countenance, 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



91 



and prudery, and twenty other things of the sort. They must 
all be taught then ; or how is a poor girl to know anything 
about them ? 

But health, strength, the heart, the soul, with their fairest 
inmates, modesty, cheerfulness, truth, purity, fond affection, — 
all these things He did make ; and so they may safely be left 
to Nature. Nobody can suppose it to be mamma's fault, if they 
don't come of themselves. 



How fond man is of tinsel ! I have known a boy steal, to 
give away. a. 

Offenders may be divided into two classes, — the old in 
crime, and the young. The old and hardened criminal, in 
becoming so, must have acquired a confidence in his own fate- 
fencedness, or as he would call it, his luck. The young then 
are the only offenders whom the law is likely to intimidate. 
Now to these imprisonment or transportation cannot but look 
much less formidable, when they see it granted as a commuta- 
tion, instead of being awarded as a penalty. It is no longer 
transportation, but getting off with transportation : and doubtless 
it is often urged in this shape on the novice, as an argument for 
crime. So that in all likelihood the threat of death, in cases 
where it can rarely be executed, is worse than nugatory, and 
positively pernicious. 

These remarks refer chiefly to such laws as are still continu- 
ally violated. With those, which, having accomplisht the pur- 
pose they were framed for, live only in the character of the 
people, let no reformer presume to meddle, until he has studied 
and refuted Col. Frankland's Speech on Sir Samuel Romilly's 
Bills for making alterations in the Criminal Law. 1826. 



. It is an odd device, when a fellow commits a crime, to send 
him to the antipodes for it. Could one shove him thither in a 
straight line, down a tunnel, he might bring back some useful 
hints to certain friends of mine, who are just now busied in 
asking mother Earth what she is made of But that a rogue, 



92 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



by picking a pocket, should earn the circuit of half the globe, 
seems really meant as a parody on the conceptions of those who 
hold that the happiness of a future life will consist mainly in 
going the round of all the countries they have not visited in the 
present. Unless indeed our legislators fancy that, by setting a 
man topsy-turvy, they may give his better qualities^ which have 
hitherto been opprest by the weight of evil passions and habits, 
a chance of coming to the top. 

How ingeniously contrived this plan is, to render punish- 
ments expensive and burthensome to the state that inflicts 
them, is notorious. Let this pass however : we must not grudge 
a little money, when a great political good is to be effected. 
True, it would be much cheaper and more profitable to employ 
our convicts in hard labour at home. Far easier too would it 
be to keep them under moral and religious discipline. But 
how could Botany Bay go on, if the importation of vice were 
put a stop to ? For, as there is nothing too bad to manure a 
new soil with, so, reasoning by analogy, no scoundrels can be 
too bad to people a new land with. The argument halts a little, 
and seems to be clubfooted, and is assuredly topheavy. In all 
well-ordered towns the inhabitants are compelled to get rid of 
their own dirt, in such a way that it shall not be a nuisance to 
the neighbourhood. It is singular that the English, of all na- 
tions the nicest on this point, should in their political capacity 
deem it justifiable and seemly to toss the dregs and feces of the 
community into the midst of their neighbour's estate. 

Deportation, as the French termed it, for political offenses may 
indeed at times be expedient, and beneficial, and just. For a 
man's being a bad subject in one state is no proof that he may 
not become a good subject under other rulers and a different 
form of government. More especially in this age of insurrec- 
tionary spirits, — when the old maxim, which may occasionally 
have afforded a sanctuary for establisht abuses, has been con- 
verted into its far more dangerous opposite, that whatever is, is 
vrrong, — there may easily be persons who from incompatibility 
of character cannot live peaceably in their own country, yet 
who may have energy and zeal to fit them for taking an active 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



93 



part in a new order of things. Such was the origin of many of 
the most flourishing Greek colonies. Men of stirring minds 
who found no place in accord with their wishes at home, went 
in search of other homes, carrying the civilization and the 
glory of the mother country into all the regions around. Some- 
thing of the same spirit gave rise to the settlements of the Nor- 
mans in the middle ages. In this way too states may be formed, 
great from the power of the moral principle which cements 
them. In this way were those states formed, which, above all 
the nations of the earth, have reason to glory in their origin, 
New England, and Pensylvania. 

But transportation for moral offenses is in every point of 
view impolitic, injurious, and unjust. " Plantations (says 
Bacon, speaking of Colonies) are amongst ancient, primitive, 
and heroical works. — It is a shameful and unblessed thing, to 
take the scum of people, and wicked condemned men, to be the 
people with whom you plant. And not only so ; but it spoileth 
the plantation : for they will ever live like rogues, and not fall 
to work, but be lazy, and do mischief, and spend victuals, and 
be quickly weary, and then certify over to their country to the 
discredit of the plantation." Yet, in defiance of this warning 
from him, whom we profess to revere as the father of true 
philosophy, and the " wisest of mankind," we have gone on for 
the last half century peopling the new quarter of the world with 
the refuse of the gallows ; as though we conceived that in mor- 
als also two negatives were likely to make an affirmative, — 
that the coacervation of filth, if the mass be only huge enough, 
would of itself ferment into purity, — and that every paradox 
might be lookt for in the country of the ornithorynchus para- 
doxus. Bacon's words however have been fulfilled, in this as 
in so many other cases ; for the prophet of modem science was 
gifted with a still more piercing vision into the hearts and 
thoughts of men. What indeed could be expected of a people 
so utterly destitute of that which is the most precious part of a 
nation's inheritance, — of that which has ever been one of the 
most powerful human stimulants to generous exertion, — the 
glory of its ancestors ? What could be expected of a people 



94 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



who, instead of glory, have no inheritance but shame ? For it 
will hardly be argued in these days, that the Romans, who 
reacht the highest pitch of earthly grandeur, sprang originally 
from a horde of bandits and outlaws. That fable may be 
regarded as exploded : and assuredly there never was a nation, 
in whom the glory of their ancestors was so lively and mighty 
a principle, as among the Romans. But not content with the 
ignominy of the original settlement, though we ought to know 
that disease is ever much more contagious than health, we 
yearly send out a number of plague-ships, as they may in truth 
be called, for fear lest the sanitary condition of our Australian 
colonies should improve. 

If any persons are to be selected by preference for the peo- 
pling of a new country, they ought rather to be the most 
temperate, the most prudent, the most energetic, the most vir- 
tuous, in the whole nation. For their task is the most arduous, 
requiring Wisdom to put forth all her strength and all her craft 
for its worthy execution. Their responsibility is the most 
weighty ; seeing that upon them the character of a whole 
people for ages will mainly depend. And they will find 
much to dishearten them, much to draw them astray ; without 
being protected against their own hearts, and upheld and forti- 
fied in their better resolves, as in a regularly constituted state 
all men are in some measure, by the healthy and cordial influ- 
ences of Law and Custom and Opinion. O that statesmen 
would consider what a glorious privilege they enjoy, when they 
are allowed to become the fathers of a new people ! This how- 
ever seems to be one of the things which God has reserved 
wholly to himself. 

Yet how enormous are the means with which the circum- 
stances of England at this day supply her for colonization ! 
How weighty therefore is the duty which falls upon her ! With 
her population overflowing in every quarter, with her imperial 
fleets riding the acknowledged lords of every sea, mistress of 
half the islands in the globe, and of an extent of coast such as 
no other nation ever ruled over, her manifest calling is to do 
that over the Atlantic and the Pacific, which Greece did so 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



95 



successfully in the Mediterranean and the Euxine. As Greece 
girt herself round with a constellation of Greek states, so ought 
England to throw a girdle of English states round the world, — 
to plant the Enghsh language, the English character, English 
knowledge, English manliness, English freedom, above all to 
plant the Cross, wherever she hoists her flag, wherever the 
simple natives bow to her armipotent sceptre. We have been 
highly blest with a glory above that of other nations. Of the 
paramounts in the various realms of thought during the last 
three centuries, many of the greatest have been of our blood. 
Our duty therefore is to spread our glory abroad, to let our 
light shine from East to West, and from Pole to Pole, — to do 
what in us lies, that Shakspeare and Milton and Bacon and 
Hooker and Newton may be familiar and honoured names a 
thousand years hence, among every people that hears the voice 
of the sea. 

Of this duty we have been utterly regardless ; because we 
have so long been regardless of a still higher duty. For our 
duties hang in such a chain, one from the other, and all from 
heaven, that he who fulfills the highest, is likely to fulfill the 
rest; while he who neglects the highest, whereby alone the 
others are upheld, will probably let the rest draggle in the mire. 
We have long been unmindful, as a nation, of that which in our 
colonial policy we ought to deem our highest duty, the duty 
of planting the colonies of Christ. We have thought only of 
planting the colonies of Mammon, not those of Christ, nor even 
those of Minerva and Apollo. Nay, till very lately we sent 
out our colonists, not so much to christianize the Heathens, as 
to be heathenized by them : and when a Christian is heathen- 
ized, then does the saying come to pass in all its darkness and 
woe, that the last state of such a man is worse than the first. 

Let us cast our thoughts backward. Of all the works of all 
the men who were living eighteen hundred years ago, what is 
remaining now ? One man was then lord of half the known 
earth. In power none could vie with him, in the wisdom of 
this world few. He had sagacious ministers, and able generals. 
Of all his works, of all theirs, of all the works of the other 



96 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



princes and rulers in those ages, what is left now ? Here and 
there a name, and here and there a ruin. Of the works of 
those who wielded a mightier weapon than the sword, a weapon 
that the rust cannot eat away so rapidly, a weapon drawn from 
the armory of thought, some still live and act, and are cherisht 
and revered by the learned. The i-ange of their influence how- 
ever is narrow : it is confined to few, and even in them mostly 
to a few of their meditative, not of their active hours. But at 
the same time there issued from a nation, among the most 
despised of the earth, twelve poor men, with no sword in their 
hands, scantily supplied with the stores of human learning or 
thought. They went forth East, and West, and North, and 
South, into all quarters of the world. Tliey were reviled : 
they were spit upon : they were trampled under foot : every 
engine of torture, every mode of death, was employed to crush 
them. And where is their work now ? It is set as a diadem 
on the brows of the nations. Their voice sounds at this day in 
all parts of the earth. High and low hear it : kings on their 
thrones bow down to it : senates acknowledge it as their law : 
the poor and afilicted rejoice in it : and as it has triumpht over 
all those powers which destroy the works of man, — as, in- 
stead of falling before them, it has gone on age after age in- 
creasing in power and in glory, — so is it the only voice which 
can triumph over Death, and turn the King of terrours into an 
angel of light. 

Therefore, even if princes and statesmen had no higher mo- 
tive than the desii^e of producing works which are to last, and 
to bear their names over the waves of time, they should aim at 
becoming the fellowlabourers, not of Tiberius and Sejanus, nor 
even of Augustus and Agrippa, but of Peter and Paul. Their 
object should be, not to build monuments which crumble away 
and are forgotten, but to work among the builders of that which 
is truly the Eternal City. For so too will it be eighteen hun- 
dred years hence, if the world lasts so long. Of the works of 
our generals and statesmen, eminent as several of them have 
been, all traces will have vanisht. Indeed of him who was the 
mif^htiest amons: them, all traces have well-nish vanisht already. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



97 



For thej who deal in death are mostly given up soon to death, 
they and tlieir works. Of our poets and philosophers some 
may still survive ; and many a thoughtful youth in distant re- 
gions may repair for wisdom to the fountains of Burke and 
Wordsworth. But the works which assuredly will live, and be 
great and glorious, are the works of those poor, unregarded 
men, who have gone forth in the spirit of the twelve from 
Judea, whether to India, to Africa, to Greenland, or to the isles 
in the Pacific. As their names are written in the Book of 
Life, so are their works : and it may be that the noblest me- 
morial of England in those days will be the Christian empire 
of New Zealand. 

This is one of the many ways in which God casts down the 
mighty, and exalts the humble and meek. Through His bless- 
ing there have been many men amongst us of late years, whose 
works will live as long as the world, and far longer. But, as a 
nation, the very Heathens will rise up in the judgement against 
us, and condemn us. For they, when they sent out colonies, 
deemed it their first and highest duty to hallow the newborn 
state by consecrating it to their national god : and they were 
studious to preserve the tie of a common religion and a com- 
mon worship, as the most binding and lasting of all ties, be- 
tween the mother-country and its offspring. Now so inherent 
is permanence in religion, so akin is it to eternity, that the mon- 
uments even of a false and corrupt religion will outlast every 
other memorial of its age and people. With what power does 
this thought come upon us when standing amid the temples of 
Paestum ! All other traces of the people who raised them 
have been swept away: the very materials of the buildings 
that once surrounded them have vanisht, one knows not how or 
whither : the country about is a wide waste : the earth has 
become barren with age : Nature herself seems to have grown 
old and died there. Yet still those mighty columns lift up their 
heads toward heaven, as though they too were " fashioned to 
endure the assault of Time with all his hours : " and still one 
gazes through them at the deep-blue sea and sky, and at the 
hills of Amalfi on the opposite coast of the bay. A day spent 



98 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



among those temples is never to be forgotten, whether as a vis- 
ion of unimagined sublimity and beauty, or as a lesson how the 
glory of all man's works j^asses away, and nothing of them 
abides, save that which he gives to God. When Mary anointed 
our Lord's feet, the act was a transient one : it was done for 
His burial : the holy feet which she anointed, ceast soon after 
to walk on earth. Yet he declared that, wheresoever His gos- 
pel was preacht in the whole world, that act should also be told 
as a memorial of her. So has it ever been with what has been 
given to God, albeit blindly and erringly. While all other 
things have perisht, this has endured. 

The same doctrine is set forth in the colossal hieroglyphics of 
Girgenti and Selinus. At Athens too what are the buildings 
which two thousand years of slavery have failed to crush? 
The temple of Theseus, and the Parthenon. Man, when 
working for himself, has ever felt that so perishable a creature 
may well be content with a perishable shell. On the other 
hand, when he is working for those whom his belief has en- 
throned in the heavens, he strives to make his works worthy of 
them, not only in grandeur and in beauty, but also in their im- 
perishable, indestructible massiness and strength. Moreover 
Time himself seems almost to shrink from an act of sacrilege ; 
and Nature ever loves to beautify the ruined house of God. 

It is not however by the Heathens alone that the propagation 
of their religion in their colonies has been deemed a duty. 
Christendom in former days was animated by a like principle. 
In the joy excited by the discovery of America, one main 
element was, that a new province would thereby be won for 
the Kingdom of Christ. This feeling is exprest in the old 
patents for our Colonies : for instance, in that for the plantation 
of Virginia, James the First declares his approval of "so noble 
a work, which may by the providence of Almighty God here- 
after tend to the glory of His Divine Majesty, in propagating 
the Christian religion to such people as yet live in darkness 
and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of 
God." For nations, as well as individuals, it might often be 
wisht, that the child were indeed " father of the man." u. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



99 



In republishing a work like this after intervals of ten and 
twenty years, it must needs be that a writer will meet now and 
then with thoughts, which, in their mode of expression at least, 
belong more or less to the past, and which in one way or other 
have become out of keeping with the present. If his watch 
pointed to the right hour twenty years ago, it must be behind 
time in some respects now. For in addition to the secular 
precession of the equinoxes in the intellectual world, each year 
advances a day ; and ever and anon comes a leap-year, with an 
unlookt-for intercalation. Even in the writer's own mind, un- 
less he has remained at a standstill, while all things else have 
been in motion, — and in that case he can never have had 
much real life in him, — subsequent reflection and experience 
must have expanded and matured some opinions, and modified 
or corrected others. In his relation to the outward world too 
there must be changes. Truth will have gained ground in some 
quarters : in others the prevalent forms of errour will be differ- 
ent, perchance opposite. Opinions, which were just coming out 
of the shell, or newly fledged, will have reacht their prime, and 
be flying abroad from mouth to mouth, from journal to journal. 
He who has sought truth with any earnestness, will at times 
have the happy reward, — among the pleasures of authorship 
one of the greatest, — of finding that thoughts, which in his 
younger days were in the germ, or just sprouting up, or bud- 
ding forth, have since ripened and seeded, — that truths, of which 
he may have caught a dim perception, and for which he may 
have contended with the ardour inspired by a struggle in be- 
half of what is unduly neglected, are more or less generally 
recognised, — and, it may even be, that wishes, which, when 
first uttered, seemed visionary, have assumed a distincter shape, 
and come forward above the horizon of practical reality. 

Thus, in revising these Guesses of former years for a third 
edition, I am continually reminded of the differences between 
1847 and 1827, and these not solely lying within the compass 
of my own mind. Nor is it uninteresting to have such a series 
of landmarks pointing out where the waters have advanced, 
and where they have receded. For instance, the observations 



100 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



in pp. 40 - 43 pertain to a time when the old Poorlaw, after its 
corruptions through the thoughtlessness of our domestic policy 
during the French War, was exciting the reprobation, which 
has since been poured out, with less reason and more clamour, 
on its successor. At that time our ministers, one after another, 
shrank from the dangers which were foreboded from a change ; 
and this should be borne in mind, though it is mostly forgotten, 
when the new Poorlaw is tried. It should be remembered 
that, whatever evils may have ensued, they are immeasurably 
less than were anticipated. Yet, though the wish exprest above 
for the correction of the old Poorlaw has in some respects been 
fulfilled, very little has been done in the view there proposed 
for elevating the character of our labouring classes. That 
which was to relieve the purses of the land-owners, has been 
effected. As to the substitutes requisite in order to preserve 
the aged and infirm from want, and to foster the feeling of self- 
dependence and self-respect, they are still problems for the future. 

Again, there is now a cheering hope that what is spoken of 
in these latter pages as the object of a dim, though earnest wish, 
will at last be accomplisht. More than two centuries have 
rolled by since Bacon lifted up his oracular voice against the 
evils of Penal Colonies. The experience of every generation 
since has strengthened his protest. During the last twenty 
years those Colonies have been the seats of simple, defecated 
vice, and have teemed with new, monstrous births of crime. It 
could not be otherwise, Avhen a people was doomed to grow up 
as a mere festering mass of corruption, and when the healthier 
influences of Nature were continually counteracted by the im- 
portation of new stores of pestilential matter, as though a hell 
were continually receiving fresh cargoes of fiends to stock it. 
At last however our ministers have been stirred with a desire 
to abate and abolish this tremendous evil. A few years after 
the utterance of the wish recorded above (in pp. 91 -94), the 
Archbishop of Dubhn, in two Letters to the late Lord Grey, 
exposed the mischiefs of Penal Colonies with unanswerable 
cogency and clearness ; and now the son of that Lord Grey 
has been awakened to a consciousness of the guilt incurred by 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



101 



England in maintaining those Colonies, and of our duty to 
abandon a policy which is planting a new nation out of the 
refuse of mankind. May God prosper his attempt, and bring it 
to a happy issue ! May our legislators neither be daunted nor 
deluded by those who assert that such abominations are a 
necessary safety-valve for the crimes of England ! 

It is sad indeed that so many of our Judges should uphold 
the expediency of transportation, in defiance of such appalling 
facts. But so it ever is with establisht abuses. Too many 
good men are apt to put on the trammels of Custom, and to 
fancy that one cannot walk without them. While the ingenious 
are ever liable to be ensnared by their own ingenuity, even 
those who have shewn great ability and integrity in working 
out the details of a system, though they may be quick in per- 
ceiving and removing partial blemishes, will be very slow to 
recognise and acknowledge the whole system to be vicious. 
Moreover, through that feebleness of imagination, and that 
bluntness of moral sympathies, Mdiich we all have to deplore, 
when an evil is once removed from sight, it almost ceases to 
disturb us ; so that, provided our criminals are prevented from 
breaking the peace in England, we think little of what they 
may do, or of what may become of them, at the opposite end 
of the Globe. Nevertheless they who stand on that high 
ground, whence Principle and Expediency are ever seen to 
coincide, — if they cling to this conviction, and are resolute in 
carrying it into act, — may be sure that, after a while, all those 
whose approbation is worth having, — even they who may have 
kept aloof, or have laid great stress on scruples and objections 
in the first instance through timidity or narrowmindedness, — 
will join in swelling their song of triumph, and in condemning 
the abuse which they themselves may long have regarded as 
indispensable to the preservation of social order. 

We have an additional ground too for thankfulness, in the 
higher and wiser notions concerning the duties of Colonization 
which have been gaining currency of late, and to which the 
attention of our Legislature has been especially called by Mr. 
BuUer in some excellent speeches. Hence we may hope that 



102 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



ere long our Government will seriously endeavour to redeem this 
vast province from the dominion of Chance, and will try to substi- 
tute an organic social polity for the vague confluence of appetites 
and passions by which our Colonies have mostly been peopled. 

Above all have we reason for giving thanks to Him who has 
at length roused our Church to a deeper consciousness of her 
duties in this region also. Among the events and measures of 
the last twenty years, I know none Avhich hold out such a rich 
promise of blessings, or which seem already to project their 
roots so far into the heart of distant ages, as that which has 
been done for the better organization and ordering of the 
Church of Christ in our Colonial Empire. 1847. u. 



Once on a time there was a certain country, in which, from 
local reasons, the land could be divided no way so conveniently 
as into foursided figures. A mathematician, having remarkt 
this, ascertained the laws of all such figures, and laid them 
down fully and accurately. His countrymen learnt to esteem 
him a philosopher ; and his precepts were observed religiously 
for years. A convulsion of nature at length changed the face 
and local character of the district : whereupon a skilful sur- 
veyor, being employed to lay out some fields afresh, ventured 
to give one of them five sides. The innovation is talkt of uni- 
versally, and is half applauded by some younger and bolder 
members of the community: but a big-mouthed and weighty 
doctor, to set the matter at rest for ever, quotes the authority 
of the above-mentioned mathematician, that fixer of agricul- 
tural positions, and grand landmark of posterity, who has 
demonstrated to the weakest apprehensions that a field ought 
never to have more than four sides : and then he proves, to the 
satisfaction of all his hearers, that a pentagon has more. 

This weighty doctor is one of a herd : everybody knows he 
cannot tell how many such. Among them are the critics, " who 
feel by rule, and think by precedent." To instance only in the 
melody of verse : nothing can be clearer than that a polysyl- 
labic language will fall into different cadences from a language 
which abounds in monosyllables. The character of languages 



i 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



103 



too in this respect often varies greatly with their age : for they 
usually drop many syllables behind them in their progress 
through time. Yet we continually hear the rule-and-precedent 
critics condemning verses for differing from the rhythms of for- 
mer days ; just as though there could only be one good tune in 
metre. 



For the motive of a man's actions, hear his friend ; for their 
prudence and propriety, his enemy. In our every-day judge- 
ments we are apt to jumble the two together; if we see an 
action is unwise, accusing it of being ill-intentioned ; and, if we 
know it to be well-intentioned, persuading ourselves it must be 
wise ; both foolishly ; the first the most so. 

Abuse I would use, were there use in abusing; 
But now 't is a nuisance you '11 lose by not losing. 
So reproof, were it proof, I 'd approve your reproving; 
But, until it improves, you should rather love loving. 

How few Christians have imbibed the spirit of their Master's 
beautiful and most merciful parable of the tares, which the ser- 
vants are forbidden to pluck up, lest they should root up the 
wheat along with them ! Never have men been wanting, who 
come, like the servants, and give notice of the tares, and ask 
leave to go and gather them up. Alas, too ! even in that 
Church, which professes to follow Jesus, and calls itself after 
His sacred name, the ruling principle has often been to destroy 
the tares, let what will come of the wheat ; nay, sometimes to 
destroy the wheat, lest a tare should perchance be left standing. 
Indeed I know not Avho can be said to have acted even up to 
the letter of this command, unless it be authors toward their 
own works. u. 



It is not without a whimsical analogy to polemical fulmina- 
tions, that great guns are loaded with iron, pistols and muskets 
fire lead, rapidly, incessantly, fatiguingly, and ninety-nine times 
out of a hundred, they say, without effect. 



104 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Knowledge is the parent of love ; Wisdom, love itself. 

They who are sinking in the world, find more weights than 
corks ready to attach themselves to them ; and even if they can 
lay hold on a bladder, it is too likely to burst before it raises 
their heads above water. a. 



The independence of the men who buy their seats, — a for- 
einer would think I am speaking of a theatre, — is often urged 
by the opposers of Parliamentary Reform as an advantage 
resulting from the present system. And independent those 
gentlemen certainly are, at least of the people of England, 
whose interests they have in charge. But the parliamentary 
balance has two ends ; and shewing that a certain body of 
members are not dependent on the people, will hardly pass for 
proof that they are not hangers on at all. Independent then is 
not the fit term to describe these members by : the plain and 
proper word is irresponsible. Now their being so may be una- 
voidable, may even be desirable for the sake of some contin- 
gent good. But can it be good in itself, and for itself? can it 
be a thing to boast of? Observe, we are talking of representa- 
tives, not of peers, or king. 1826. 

In proportion as each word stands for a separate conception, 
language comes nearer to the accuracy and unimpressiveness of 
algebraic characters, so useful when the particular links in a 
chain of reasoning have no intrinsic value, and are important 
only as connecting the premisses with the conclusion. But cir- 
cumlocutions magnify details ; and their march being sedate 
and stately, the mind can keep pace with them, yet not run 
itself out of breath. In the due mixture of these two modes, 
lies the secret of an argumentative style. As a general rule, 
the first should prevail more in writing, the last in speaking ; 
circumlocution being to words, what repetition is to arguments. 
The first too is the fitter dress for a short logical sentence, the 
last for a long one, in which the feelings are any wise appealed 
to; though to recommend in the same breath, that shortness 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



105 



should be made still shorter, and that length should be length- 
ened, may sound paradoxical. 

Yet this amounts to much the same thing with the old Stoic 
illustration. Zeno, says Cicero {Orat. 32), "manu demonstrare 
solebat, quid inter dialecticos et oratores interesset. Nam cum 
compresserat digitos, pugnumque fecerat, dialecticam aiebat 
ejusmodi esse : cum autem diduxerat, et manum dilataverat, 
palmae illius similem eloquentiam esse dicebat. With an evi- 
dent reference to this illustration, Fuller {Holy State, B. II. c. 
5) says of Campian, that he was " excellent at the flat hand of 
rhetoric, which rather gives pats than blows ; but he could not 
bend his fist to dispute." 

Oratory may be symbolized by a warrior's eye, flashing from 
under a philosopher's brow. But why a warrior's eye, rather 
than a poet's ? Because in oratory the will must predominate. 

The talk without effort is after all the great charm of talking. 

The proudest word in English, to judge by its way of carry- 
ing itself, is 1. It is the least of monosyllables, if it be indeed 
a syllable : yet who in good society ever saw a little one ? 

Foreiners find it hard to understand the importance which 
every wellbred Englishman, as in duty bound, attaches to him- 
self. They cannot conceive why, whenever they have to speak 
in the first person, they must stand on tiptoe, lifting themselves 
up, until they tower, like Ajax, with head and shoulders above 
their comrades. Hence in their letters, as in those of the uned- 
ucated among our own countrymen, we now and then stumble 
on a little i, with a startling shock, as on coming to a short step 
in a flight of stairs. A Frenchman is too courteous and pol- 
isht to thrust himself thus at full length into his neighbour's 
face : he makes a bow, and sticks out his tail. Indeed this big 
one-lettered pronoun is quite peculiar to John Bull, as much so 
as Magna Charta, with which perchance it may not be alto- 
gether unconnected. At least it certainly is an apt symbol of 
5* . 



106 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



our national character, both in some of its nobler and of its 
harsher features. In it you may discern the Enghshman's 
freedom, his unbending firmness, his straightforwardness, his 
individuality of character: you may also see his self-impor- 
tance, his arrogance, his opiniativeness, his propensity to sepa- 
rate and seclude himself from his neighbours, and to look down 
on all mankind with contempt. As he has bared his represent- 
ative / of its consonants and adjuncts, in like manner has he 
also stript his soul of its consonants, of those social and affable 
qualities, which smoothe the intercourse between man and man, 
and by the help of which people unite readily one with another. 
Look at four Englishmen in a stage-coach : the odds are, they 
will be sitting as stiff and unsociable as four les. Novalis must 
have had some vision of this sort in his mind, when he said 
(vol. iii. p. 301) : " Every Englishman is an island." 

But is / a syllable ? It has hardly a better claim to the 
title, than Orson, before he left the woods, had to be called a 
family. By the by, they who would derive all language from 
simple sounds, by their juxtaposition and accumulation, and all 
society from savages, who are to unite under the influence of 
mutual repulsion, may perceive in /and Orson, that the isolated 
state is as likely to be posterior to the social, as to be anterior. 
You have only to strip vowels of their consonants, man of his 
kindly affections, which are sure to dry up of themselves, and 
to drop off, when they have nothing to act on. Death crum- 
bles its victims into dust : but dust has no power in itself to 
coalesce into life. u. 



Perhaps the pecuhar self-importance of our / may number 
among the reasons why our writers nowadays are so loth to 
make use of it ; as though its mere utterance were a mark of 
egotism. This over-jealous watchfulness betrays that there 
must be something unsound. In simpler times, before our self- 
consciousness became so sensitive and irritable, people were 
not afraid of saying I, when occasion arose : and they never 
dreamt that their doing so could be an offense to their neigh- 
bours. But now we eschew it by all manner of shifts. We 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



107 



multiply, we dispersonate ourselves : we turn ourselves outside 
in. We are ready to become he, she, it, theij, anything rather 
than L 

A tribe of writers are fond of merging their individuality in 
a multitudinous we. They think they may pass themselves off 
unnoticed, like the Irishman's bad guinea, in a handful of half- 
pence. This is one of the affectations with which the litera- 
ture of the day is tainted, a trick caught, or at least much 
fostered, by the habit of writing in Reviews. Now in a Re- 
view, — which, among divers other qualities of Cerberus, has 
that of many-headedness, and the writers in which speak in 
some measure as the members of a junto, — the plural we is 
warrantable ; provided it be not thrust forward, as it so often 
is, to make up for the want of argument by the show of au- 
thority. This distinction is justly drawn by Chateaubriand, in 
the preface to his Memoir on the Congress of Verona : " En 
parlant de moi, je me suis tour-a-tour servi des pronoms nous 
et je ; nous comme representant d'une opinion, je quand il 
m'arrive d'etre personnellement en scene, ou d'exprimer un 
sentiment individuel. Le moi choque j^ar son orgueil ; le nous 
est un peu janseniste et royal." 

Still, in ordinary books, except when the author can reason- 
ably be conceived to be speaking, not merely in his own person, 
but as the organ of a body, or when he can fairly assume that 
his readers are going along with him, his using the plural we 
impresses one with much such a feeling as a man's being afraid 
to look one in the face. Yet I have known of a work, a history 
of great merit, which was sent back to its author with a request 
that he would weed the les out of it, by a person of high emi- 
nence ; who however rose to eminence in the first instance as a 
reviewer, and the eccentricities in whose character and conduct 
may perhaps be best solved by looking upon him as a reviewer 
transformed into a politician. For a reviewer's business is to 
have positive opinions upon all subjects, without need of sted- 
fast principles or thoroughgoing knowledge upon any : and he 
belongs to the hornet class, unproductive of anything useful 
or sweet, but ever ready to sally forth and sting, — ^^to the class 



108 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



of which lago is the head, and who are " nothing, if not criti- 
cal." 

So far indeed is the anxiety to suppress the personal pronoun 
from being a sure criterion of humility, that there is frequently 
a ludicrous contrast between the conventional generality of our 
language, and the egotism of the sentiments exprest in it. Un- 
der this cover a man is withheld by no shame from prating 
about his most trivial caprices, and will say, ive think so and so, 
we do so and so, ten times, where Montaigne might have hesi- 
tated to say / once. Often especially in scientific treatises, — 
which, from the propensity of their authors to look upon words, 
and to deal wdth them, as bare signs, are not seldom rude and 
amorphous in style, — the plural ive is mere clumsiness, a kind 
of refuge for the destitute, a help for those who cannot get quit 
of their subjectivity, or write about objects objectively. This, 
which is the great difficulty in all thought, — the forgetting 
oneself, and passing out of oneself into the object of one's con- 
templation, — is also one of the main difficulties in composition. 
It requires much more self-oblivion to speak of things as they 
are, than to talk about what we see, and what we perceive, and 
what we think, and what ive conceive, and what we find, and 
what ive know: and as self-oblivion is in all things an indispen- 
sable condition of igrace, which is infallibly marred by self- 
consciousness, the exclusion of such references to ourselves, 
except when we are speaking personally or problematically, is 
an essential requisite for classical grace in style. This, to be 
sure, is the very last merit which any one would look for in Dr 
Chalmers. He is a great thinker, and a great and good man ; 
and his writings have a number of merits, but not this. Still 
even in him it produces a whimsical effect, wdien, in declaring 
his having given up the opinion he once held on the allsuffi- 
ciency and exclusiveness of the miraculous evidence for Chris- 
tianity, although he is speaking of what is so distinctively 
personal, he still cannot divest himself of the plurality he has 
been accustomed to assume: see the recent edition of his 
Works, vol. iii. p. 385. Droll however as it sounds, to find a 
man saying, We formerly thought differently, hut we have now 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



109 



changed our mind, the passage is a fine proof of the candour 
and ingenuousness which characterize its author : and every 
lover of true philosophy must rejoice at the accession of so 
illustrious a convert from the thaumatolatry by which our the- 
ology has been debased for more than a century. 

Moreover the plural we, though not seldom used dictatorially, 
rather diminishes than increases the weight of what is said. 
One is slow to believe that a man is much in earnest, when he 
will not stand out and bear the brunt of the pubUc gaze ; when 
he shrinks from avowing, What I have written, I have written. 
Whereas a certain respect and deference is ever felt almost 
instinctively for the personality of another, when it is not im- 
pertinently protruded : and it is pleasant to be reminded now 
and then that we are reading the words of a man, not the 
words of a book. Hence the interest we feel in the passages 
where Milton speaks of himself. This was one of the things 
which added to the power of Cobbett's style. His readers 
knew who was talking to them. They knew it was William 
Cobbett, not the Times, or the 3forning Chronicle, — that the 
words proceeded from the breast of a man, not merely from the 
mouth of a printing-press. It is only under his own shape, we 
all feel, that we can constrain Proteus to answer us, or rely on 
what he says. 

In a certain sense indeed the authorial we will admit of a 
justification, which is beautifully exprest by Schubert, in the 
Dedication of his History of the Soul. "It is an old custom 
for writers to dedicate the work of their hands to some one 
reader, though it is designed to serve many. — This old custom 
appears to be of the same origin with that for authors, when 
they are speaking of themselves, or of what they have done, 
not to say I, but lae. Both practices would seem originally to 
have been an open avowal of that conviction, which forces 
itself upon us in writing books, more strongly than in any other 
employment, — namely, that the individual mind cannot pro- 
duce anything worthy, except in a bond of love and of unity 
of spirit with another mind, associated with it as its helpmate. 
For this is one of the purposes of life and of its labours, that a 



110 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



man should find out how little there is in him that he has 
received in and through himself, and how much that he has 
received from others, and that hereby he may learn humility 
and love." 

Another common disguise is that of putting on a domino. 
Instead of coming forward in their own persons, many choose 
rather to make their appearance as the Author, the Writer, the 
Reviewer. In prefaces this is so much the fashion, that our 
best and purest writers, Southey for instance, and Thirlwall, 
have complied with it. Nay, even Wordsworth has sanc- 
tioned this prudish coquetry by his practice in the Preface to 
the Excursion, and in his other later writings in prose. In 
earlier days he shewed no reluctance to speak as himself. 

This affectation is well ridiculed by Tieck, in his Drama- 
turgische Blaetter, i. 275. " It has struck me for years (he 
says), as strange, that our reviewers have at length allowed 
themselves to be so overawed by the everlasting jests and jeers 
of their numberless witty and witless assailants, as to have dropt 
the plural we ; much to their disadvantage, it seems to me ; 
nay, much to the disadvantage of true modesty, which they 
profess to be aiming at. In a collective work, to which there 
are many anonymous contributors, each, so long as he continues 
anonymous, speaks in the name of his collegues, as though 
they agreed with him. The editor too must examine and ap- 
prove of the articles : so that there must always be two persons 
of one mind; and these may fairly call themselves we. Re- 
viewers moreover have often to lift up their voices against 
w^hatever is new, paradoxical, original, — and are compelled 
on the other hand, whether by their own convictions, or by per- 
sonal considerations, to praise what is middling and common- 
place. Hence no soverein on earth can have a better right to 
say we, than such a reviewer ; who may lie down at night with 
the calmest conscience, under the conviction that he has been 
speaking as the mouthpiece of thousands of his countrymen, 
when he declared. We are quite unable to understand this and 
that, or, We can by no means approve of such a notion. How 
tame in comparison is the newfangled phrase ! The reviewer 
confesses that he cannot understand this. 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



Ill 



" Still stranger is it to see, how writers in journals, even 
when they sign their names, and thus appear in their own per- 
sons, have for some time almost universally shunned saying 
just as if they were children, with an unaccountable squeam- 
ishness, and have twisted and twined about in the uncouthest 
windings, to escape from this short, simple sound. Even in 
independent works one already meets with such expressions as 
The writer of this, or, The writer of these lines, — a long- 
winded, swollen L which is carrying us back to a stiff, clumsy, 
lawpaper style. In journals the phrase is, The undersigned has 
to state, Your correspondent conceives. Ere long we shall find 
in philosophical treatises. The thinker of this thought takes the 
liberty of remarking, or. The discoverer of this notion begs leave 
to say. Nay, if this modesty be such a palpable virtue, as it 
would seem to be from the general rage for \i, shall we not 
soon see in descriptive poetry. The poet of these lines walkt 
through the wood'} Even this however would be far too pre- 
sumptuous, to call oneself a poet. So the next phrase will be, 
The versifier of this feeble essay Walkt, if his memory deceive 
him not. Across a meadow, where, audacious deed! He pluckt 
a daisy from its grassy couch : or. The youth, ivhose ivish is that 
he may hereafter Be deemed a poet, sauntered toward the grove. 
There is no end of such periphrases ; and perhaps the barba- 
rism will spread so widely that compositors, whenever they come 
to an / in a manuscript, will change it into one of these trailing 
circumlocutions. "When I look into Lessing and his contempo- 
raries, I find none of this absurd affectation. Modesty must 
dwell within, in the heart ; and a short / is the modestest, most 
natural, simplest word I can use, when I have anything I want 
to say to the reader." 

There is another mode of getting rid of our I, which has 
recently become very common, especially in ladies notes, so that 
I suppose it is inculcated by the Polite Letter-writer ; though, to 
be sure, / is such an inflexible, unfeminine word, one cannot 
wonder they should catch at any means of evading it. Ask a 
couple to dinner : Mrs Tomkins will reply, Mr Tomkins and 
myself will be very happy. This indeed is needlessly awkward : 



112 GUESSES AT TRUTH. 

for she might so easily betake herself to a woman's natural 
place of shelter, by using ive. But one person will tell you, 
Lord A. and myself took a ivalk this morning ; another, Col. B. 
and myself fought a duel ; another, 3Iiss E. and myself have 
been making love to each other. " Thus by myself myself is 
self-abused." One might fancy that, it having been made a 
grave charge against "SYolsey, that he said, The King and I, 
everybody was haunted by the fear of being indicted for a simi- 
lar misdemeanour. 

In like manner myself is often used, incorrectly, it seems to 
me, instead of the objective pronoun me. Its legitimate usage 
is either as a reciprocal pronoun, or for the sake of distinction, 
or of some particular emphasis ; as when Juliet cries, " Romeo, 
doff thy name. And for that name, which is no part of thee, 
Take all myself ; " or as when Adam says to Eve, " Best image 
of myself and dearer half." In the opening of the Paradisia- 
cal hymn, — "These are thy glorious works, Parent of good, 
Almighty ! Thine this universal frame, Thus wondrous fair ! 
Thyself how wondrous then ! " — there is an evident contrast : 
If thy 2vorks are so loondrous, how wondrous must Thou Thy- 
self he ! In like manner when Valentine, in the Two Gentle- 
men of Verona, says of Proteus, " I knew him as myself ; And 
though myself have been an idle truant. Omitting the sweet 
benefit of time. To clothe my age with angel-like perfection. 
Yet hath Sir Proteus — Made use and fair advantage of his 
days ; " — it amounts to the same thing as if he had said. 
Though I for my part have been an idle truant. Where there 
is no such emphasis, or purpose of bringing out a distinction or 
contrast, the simple pronoun is the right one. Inaccuracies of 
this kind also, though occasionally found in writers of former 
times, have become much more frequent of late years. Even 
Coleridge, when speaking about his projected poem on Cain, 
says, " The title and subject were suggested hy myself In 
such expressions as my father and myself my brother and my- 
self we are misled by homoeophony : but the old song begin- 
ning " My father, my mother, and I," may teach us what is the 
idiomatic, and also the correct usage. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



113 



On the other hand, me is often substituted vulgarly and 
ungraramaticaily for 1. For the objective me, on which others 
act, is very far from being so formidable a creature, either to 
oneself or to others, as the subjective I, the ground of all con- 
sciousness, and vohtion, and action, and responsibility. Gram- 
matically too it seems to us as if / always required something 
to follow it, something to express doing or suffering. Hence, 
when one cries out, Who is there ? three people out of four 
answer 3Ie. Hence too such expressions as that in Launce's 
speech, where he gets so puzzled about his personal identity, 
after having once admitted the thought that he could be any- 
thing but himself : " I am the dog ... no, the dog is himself ; 
and I am the dog . . . oh, the dog is me, and I am myself . . . 
ay, so, so." It may be considered a token of the want of in- 
dividuality in the French character, that their je is incapable 
of standing alone ; and that, in such phrases as the foregoing, 
moi would be the only admissible word. u. 

This shrinking from the use of the personal j^ronoun, this 
autophoby, as it may be called, is not indeed a proof of the 
modesty it is designed to indicate ; any more than the hydro- 
phobia is a proof that there is no thirst in the constitution. 
On the contrary, it rather betrays a morbidly sensitive self- 
consciousness. It may however be regarded as a mark of the 
decay of individuality of character amongst us, as a symptom 
that, as is mostly the case in an age of high cultivation, we 
are ceasing to be living persons, each animated by one per- 
vading, formative principle, ready to follow it whithersoever 
it may lead us, and to stake our lives for it, and that we are 
shriveling up into encyclopedias of opinions. To refer to spe- 
cific evidence of this is needless. Else abundance may be 
found in the want of character, the want of determinate, con- 
sistent, stedfast principles, so wofully manifest in those who 
have taken a prominent part in the proceedings of our Legis- 
lature of late years. There is still one rock indeed, stout and 
bold and unshakable as can be desired : but the main part of 
the people about him have been washt and ground down to 

H 



114 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



sand, the form of which a breath of air, a child's caprice, a 
man's foot will change. Or what other inference can be drawn 
from the vapid characterlessness of our recent poetry and 
novels of modern life, when compared with that rich fund of 
original, genial, humorous characters, which seemed to be the 
peculiar dower of the Enghsh intellect, and which abode with 
it, amid all the vicissitudes of our literature, from the age of 
Shakspeare, nay, from that of Chaucer, down to the days of 
Swift and Defoe and Fielding and Smollett and Goldsmith ? 

Yet by a whimsical incongruity, at the very time when 
strongly markt outlines of character are fading away in the 
haze of a literary and scientific amalgama, every man, woman, 
and child has suddenly started up an individual. This again is 
an example how language is corrupted by a silly dread of plain 
speaking. Our ancestors were meii and ivomen. The former 
word too was often used generally, as it is still, like the Latin 
homo, for every human being. Unluckily however we have no 
form answering to the German Mensch ; and hence, in seeking 
for a word which should convey no intimation of sex, we have 
had recourse to a variety of substitutes : for, none being strictly 
appropriate, each after a time has been deemed vulgar ; and 
none has been lasting. 

In Chaucer's days wight was the common word in the singu- 
lar, /o/^^ in the plural. Neither of these words had any tinge of 
vulgarity then attacht to them. In the Doctor's Tale, he says 
of Virginia, " Fair was this maid, of excellent beautee, Aboven 
every wight that man niay see : " where we also find man used 
indefinitely, as in German, answering to our present one, from 
the French on, homo. So again soon after : " Of alle treason 
soverein pestilence Is, when a wight betrayeth innocence." A 
hundred other examples might be cited. In like manner /o/^ 
is used perpetually, especially in the Parson's Tale : " Many be 
the ways that lead folk to Christ;" "Sins be the ways that lead 
folk to hell." When Shakspeare wrote, both these words had 
lost somewhat of their dignity. Biron calls Armado " a most 
illustrious wight;'' and the contemptuous application of this 
term to others is a piece of Pistol's gasconading. The use of it 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



115 



is also a part of the irony with which lago winds up his descrip- 
tion of a good woman : " She was a wight ... if ever such wight 
were ... To suckle fools, and chronicle small beer." Folk was 
seldom used, except with the addition of a plural s, in such ex- 
pressions as old folks, good folks, countryfolks. The word in 
repute then, in the singular, was a hody, of which we retain 
traces in the compounds, somebody, nobody, anybody, everybody. 
Rosalind, on recovering from her fainting fit, says, body 
would think this was well counterfeited;" where we should 
now say a person. Bianca, in the Taming of the Shrew, speaks 
of " a hasty-witted body!' That there was nothing derogatory 
in the word, is clear from Angelo's calling himself " so eminent 
a body!' Other words, such as a soul, a creature, a fellow, were 
mostly attended with a by-shade of meaning. 

A number were summed up under the general word people, 
the Latin counterpart of the Saxon folk, which it superseded. 
Of this use we find the germs in our Bible, in the expressions 
much people, all people, all the people. " O wonder ! (cries Mi- 
randa, when she first sees the shipwreckt party ;) How many 
goodly creatures are there here ! How beauteous mankind is ! 
O brave new world. That has such people in it ! " Bassanio, 
after opening the casket, compares himself to one " That thinks 
he hath done well in people's eyes." So too Richard the Second 
says of himself, " Thus play I in one person majiy people.'' 
These passages justify the idiomatic use of the word, which, it 
is to be hoped, will still keep its ground, in spite of the ignorant 
affectation of unidiomatic fine writing. 

Next everybody became a person ; a word which is not inap- 
propriate, when we bethink ourselves of its etymology, seeing 
that so many persons are in truth little else than masks, and 
that every breath of air will sound through them : for to the 
lower orders, who do not wear masks, the term is seldom ap- 
plied. Several causes combined to give this word general cir- 
culation. It was a French word : it belonged to Law Latin, 
and to that of the Schools : it was adopted from the Vulgate 
by our translators. It was coming into common use in Shak- 
speare's time. Angelo asks Isabella, what she would do, " Find- 



116 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



ing herself desired of such a person, Whose credit with the 
judge could save her brother." Dogberry says, "Our watch have 
comprehended two auspicious persons'' Rosalind tells Orlando, 
that " Time travels in divers paces with divers persons" 

Nowadays however all these words are grown stale. Such 
grand people are we, for whom the world is too narrow, our 
dignity will not condescend to enter into anything short of a 
quadrisyllable. No ! give us a fine, big, long word, no matter 
what it means : only it must not have been degraded by being 
applied to any former generation. As a woman now deems it 
an insult to be called anything but a female, — as a strumpet is 
become an unfortunate female, — and as every day we may 
read of sundry females being taken to Bowstreet, — in like 
manner everybody has been metamorphosed into an individual, 
by the Circe who rules the fashionable slang of the day. You 
can hardly look into a newspaper, but you find a story how five 
or six individuals were lost in the snow, or were overturned, or 
were thrown out of a boat, or were burnt to death. A minister 
of state informs the House of Commons, that twenty individuals 
were executed at the last assizes. A beggar this morning said 
to me, that he was an unfortunate individual. A man of lit- 
erary eminence told me the other day that an individual was 
looking at a picture, and that this individual was a painter. 
One even reads, how an individual met another individual in 
the street, and how these two individuals quarreled, and how a 
third individual came up to part the two individuals who were 
fighting, and how the two individuals fell upon the third indi- 
vidual, and belaboured him for his pains. This is hardly an 
exaggerated parody of an extract I met with a short time back 
from a speech, which was pronounced to be " magnificent," and 
in which the word recurs five times in eighteen lines. Nay, a 
celebrated preacher, it is said, has been so destitute of all feel- 
ing for decorum in language, as to call our Saviour " this emi- 
nent individuals Also too ! even Wordsworth, of all our writ- 
ers the most conscientiously scrupulous in the use of words, in 
a note to one of the poems in his last volume, says that it was 
" never seen by the individual for whom it was intended." So 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



117 



true is the remark, which Coleridge makes, when speaking of 
the purity of Wordsworth's language, that "in prose it is 
scarcely possible to preserve our style unalloyed by the vicious 
phraseology which meets us everywhere, from the sermon to 
the newspaper." For, if Landor has done so, it is because he 
has spent so much of his life abroad. Hence his knowledge 
of our permanent language has been little troubled by the rub- 
bish which floats on our ephemeral language, and from which 
no man living in England can escape. 

When and whence did this strange piece of pompous inanity 
come to us? and how did it gain such sudden vogue? It 
sounds very modern indeed, scarcely older than the Reform- 
Bill. Have we caught it from Irish oratory ? or from the 
Scotch pulpit ? both of which have been so busy of late years 
in corrupting our mother English. To the former one might 
ascribe it, from seeing that, of all classes, our Irish speakers are 
the fondest of babbling about individuals. Its empty grandilo- 
quence too sounds like a voice from the Emerald Isle ; while 
its philosophical pretension would bespeak the north of the 
Tweed. Or is it a Gallicism ? for the French too apply their 
individu to particular persons, though never, I believe, thus 
promiscuously. Its having got down already into the mouth of 
beggars is a curious instance of the rapidity with which words 
circulate in this age of steampresses, and steamcoaches, and 
steamboats, and steamthoughts, and steamconstitutions. 

The attempt to check the progress of a word, which has 
already acquired such currency, may perhaps be idle. Still it 
is well if one can lead some of the less thoughtless to call to 
mind, that words have a meaning and a history, and that, when 
used according to their historical meaning, they have also life 
and power. The word in question too is a good and valuable 
word, and worth reclaiming for its own appropriate signification. 
We want it ; we have frequent occasion for it, and have no 
substitute to fill its place. It should hardly be used, except 
where some distinction or contrast is either exprest or implied. 
A man is an individual, as regarded in his special, particular 
unity, not in his public capacity, not as a member of a body : 



118 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



he is an individual, so far as he is an integral whole, different 
and distinct from other men : and that which makes him what he 
is, that in which he differs and is distinguisht from other men, is 
his indiridualffi/, and individuates or individualizes him. Thus, 
in the Dedication of the Advancement of Learning, Bacon says 
to the King : I thought it more respective to make choice of 
some oblation, which might rather refer to the propriety and 
excellency of your individual person, than to the business of 
your crown and state." Milton indeed uses individual for un- 
divided or indivisible ; as for instance in that grand passage of 
his Ode on Time, where he says that, when Time is at an end, 
Then long Eternity shall greet our bliss With an individual 
kiss.'' And this usage is common in our early writers. Ra- 
legh, in the Preface to his History (p. 17), speaks of the notion 
of Prochis, " that the compounded essence of the world is con- 
tinued and knit to the Divine Being by an individual and in- 
separable power." To our ears however this sounds like a Lat- 
iuism. Indeed this is the only sense in which the Romans used 
the word. 

The sense it bears with us, it acquired among the School- 
men, from whom we derive so large a portion of om* philosoph- 
ical vocabulary ; as may be seen, for instance, in the following 
passage of Anselm's Monologium (c. xxvii.) : Cum omnis 
substantia tractetur, aut esse universalis, quae pluribus substan- 
tiis essentialitcr communis est, — ut. hominem esse, commune 
est singulis liominibus ; aut est indi vidua, quae universalem 
essentiam communem habet cum aliis, — quemadmodum singuli 
homines connnune habent cum singulis, ut homines sint." Thus 
Donne, in his oStli Sermon (vol. ii. p. 17'2), speaking of Christ, 
says : " This is that mysterious Person, who is sinqularis, and 
yet not individuus ; singularis, — there never was, never shall 
be any such; — but we cannot call him individual, as every 
other particular man is, because Christitatis non est genus, there 
is no genus or species of Christs : it is not a name which can 
be communicated to any other, as the name of man may to 
every individual man." Again Bacon, in the first Chapter of 
the second Book De Augmentis Scientiarum, writes: " Historia 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



119 



proprie individuorum est. — Etsi enim Historia Naturalis circa 
species versari videatur, tamen hoc fit ob promiscuam reruin 
naturalium similitudinem ; ut, si unam noris, omnes noris. — 
Poesis etiam individuorum est. — Pliilosopliia individua dimit- 
tit, neque irapressiones primas individuoricm, sed iiotiones ab 
illis abstractas complectitur." 

This usage might be illustrated by a number of passages 
from our metaphysical writers ; as where Locke says (iii. 3, 4), 
that men " in their own species, — wherein they have often 
occasion to mention particular persons, make use of proper 
names ; and there distinct individuals have distinct denomina- 
tions." This example shews how easily the modern abuse 
might grow up. In the following sentence from the Wealth of 
Nations (B. v. c. 1), — "In some cases the state of society 
places the greater part of individuals in such situations as jiat- 
urally form in them almost all the abilities and virtues which 
that state requires," — there is still an intimation of the antith- 
esis proj^erly implied in the Avord. But in many passages of 
Dugald Stewart, who uses it perpetually in the first volume of 
his Philosophy of the Human Mind, publisht in 1792, the an- 
tithesis is scarcely discernible ; as, for instance, when he says 
(p. 20), " There are few individuals, whose education has been 
conducted in every respect with attention and judgement." 
Here a more idiomatic writer would have said. There are few 
persons. 

By the way, a good glossary to the Schoolmen would be an 
interesting and instructive work ; a glossary collecting all the 
words which they coined, pointing out the changes they made 
in the signification of old Latin words, explaining the grounds 
of these innovations, and the wants they were meant to supply, 
and tracking these words through the various languages of 
modern Europe. Valuable as Ducange's great work is for 
political, legal, ecclesiastical, military, and all manner of tech- 
nical words, we still want a similar, though a far less bulky and 
laborious collection of such words as his plan did not embrace, 
especially of philosophical, scientific, and medical words, before 
we can be thoroughly acquainted with the alterations which 



120 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Latin underwent, when, from being tlie language of Rome, it 
became that of all persons of education throughout Europe. 
Even from Ducange it would be well if some industrious gram- 
marian would pick out all such words as have left any offspring 
amongst us. Then alone shall we be prepared for understand- 
ing the history of the English language, when its various ele- 
ments have been carefully separated, collected, arranged, and 
classified. u. 



The offense charged against "Wolsey is usually conceived to 
have lain in his having prefixt his name to the King's ; as 
though, when he wrote Ego et Rex meus, it had been tanta- 
mount to saying / and the King; an expression so repugnant 
to our English notions of good-breeding, that it seems to us to 
imply the most overweening assumption of superiority. Hence^ 
when the lords are taunting him in Shakspeare, Norfolk says, 
" Then that in all you writ to Rome, or else To forein princes, 
Ego et Rex meus Was still inscribed, in which you brought the 
King To be your servant."' Thus the article of the Bill against 
him is stated by Holinshed, from whom Shakspeare's words 
are copied : " Item, in all writings which he wrote to Rome, or 
any other forein prince, he wrote Ego et Rex meus, I and my 
King, as who would say that the King were his servant." The 
charge is given in similar words by Grafton, by Hall, and by 
Foxe. Addison too understood it in the same sense. In his 
paper on Egotism {Spectator, 562), he says, "The most violent 
egotism which I have met with in the course of my reading, is 
that of Cardinal Wolsey, Ego et Rex meus, I and my King J' 

From this one might suppose that the grievance would have 
been removed, had he written Rex meus et ego, violating the 
Latin idiom ; which in such expressions follows the natural 
order of our thoughts, and, inasmuch as a man's own feehngs 
and actions must usually be foremost in his mind, makes him 
place himself first, when he has to speak of himself along with 
another. lience Wolsey's last biographer, in the Cabinet Cy- 
clopedia, talks of "the Ego et Rex meus charge, which only 
betrays its framer's ignorance of the Latin idiom." Yet, when 



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one finds that the first name subscribed to the Bill against 
Wolsey is that of Thomas More, a modest man will be slow 
to believe that it can have been drawn up with such gross 
ignorance. Nor was it. A transcript of the Bill from the 
Records is given by Lord Herbert in his Life of Henry the 
Eighth^ and has lately been reprinted in the State- Trials : and 
there the fourth article stands as follows. " Also the said Lord 
Cardinal, of his presumptuous mind, in divers and many of his 
letters and instructions sent out of this realm to outward par- 
ties, had joined himself with your Grace, as in saying and 
writing in his said letters and instructions. The King and I 
would ye shoidd do thus ; — The King and I give you our 
hearty thanks: M^hereby it is apparent that he used himself 
more like a fellow to your Highness, than like a subject." So 
that the blunder is imaginary. The charge was, not that he 
placed himself above and before the King, but that he spoke of 
himself along and on a level with the King, in a manner ill 
befitting a subject and a servant. The inaccuracy in Foxe's 
report was noted long ago by Collier in his Ecclesiastical 
History. 

"It is always a mistake (says Niebuhr) to attribute igno- 
rance on subjects of general notoriety to eminent men, in order 
to account for what we may find in them running counter to 
current opinions." This, and Coleridge's golden rule, — "Until 
you understand an author's ignorance, presume yourself igno- 
rant of his understanding," — should be borne in mind by all 
writers who feel an itching in their forefinger and thumb to be 
carping at their wisers and betters. u. 



The substitution of plurality for unity, and the unwillingness 
to use the simple personal pronoun, are not confined to that of 
the first person. In the languages of modern Europe this and 
divers other expedients have been adopted to supersede the 
pronoun of the second person : and only among certain classes, 
or in particular cases, is it thought allowable nowadays to 
address any one by his rightful appellation, thou. This is com- 
monly supposed to be dictated by a desire of shewing honour 
6 



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GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



to him whom we are addressing ; as may be seen, for instance, 
in Luther's remark on the use of the plural in the first words 
of the Book of Genesis: "Explodenda igitur est Judaeorum 
frigida cavillatio, quod reverentiae causa plurali numero sit 
usus. — Praesertim cum id non sit omnibus linguis commune, 
quod nobis Germanis usitatum est, ut reverentia sit plurali 
numero uti, cum de uno aliquo loquimur." But the further 
question arises : why is it esteemed a mark of honour to turn 
an individual into a multitude ? Surely we do not mean to in- 
timate that he must multiply himself like Kehama, in order to 
storm our hearts by bringing a fresh self against every en- 
trance. Might not one rather expect that the mark of honour 
would be to separate him from all other men, and to regard 
him exclusively as himself, and by himself? as Cressida's ser- 
vant tells her, that Ajax is " a very man per se, And stands 
alone." The secret motive, which lies at the bottom of these 
conventions, I believe to be a reluctance, in the one case to 
obtrude one's own personality, in the other to intrude on the 
personality of another. In both there is the feeling of con- 
scious sinfulness, leading us to hide among the trees. 

In the Greeks and Romans, as there was not the same con- 
sciousness of a sinful nature, neither was there the same shrink- 
ing from personality in their addresses to each other. "We see 
this in many features of their literature, especially of their ora- 
tory; which modern critics, judging them perversely, according 
to the feelings and notions of later times, pronounce to be in 
bad taste. For with us a personality means an insult, and such 
as no gentleman will be guilty of. But the ancients felt differ- 
ently on this matter : nor did they ever fancy there could be 
anything indecorous or affronting in calling each other simply 
a-v or fii. This is of a piece with their unscrupulousness about 
the exhibition of the naked form. Recjardinj? human nature as 
one, they were little sensible of the propriety of concealing any 
part of it. If they did so, in conformity to the custom of wear- 
ing clothing, in the statues of real personages, whom they wisht 
to represent as their countrymen had been wont to see them, 
they proved that this did not arise from any moral delicacy, 



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123 



inasmuch as nakedness was deemed appropriate to the statues 
of most of the gods. Whereas in modern times the feeling of 
the dupHcity of our nature has been so strong, and it has been 
so much the custom to look upon the body as the main root and 
source of evil, that our aim has been to hide every part of it, 
except the face as the index, and the hand as the instrument of 
the mind. So too are we studious to conceal every action of 
our animal nature, even those, such as tears and the other out- 
ward signs of grief, in which the animal nature is acting under 
the sway of the spiritual. To us the tears of Achilles, the 
groans of Philoctetes, the yells of Hercules, seem, not merely 
unheroic, but unmanly. Nay, even a woman would be with- 
held by shame from making such a display of her weakness. 

In like manner it strikes our minds as such insolent familiar- 
ity for a man to thou his superiors, that most people, I imagine, 
would suppose that under the Roman Empire at all events it 
can never have been allowable to address an emperor with a 
bare tu. If any one needs to be convinced of the contrary, he 
has only to look into Pliny's letters to Trajan, or Fronto's to 
Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius : he will find that no 
more ceremony was observed in writing to the master of the 
world, than if he had been a common Roman citizen. Many 
striking speeches too, shewing this, are recorded. For instance, 
that of Asinius Gallus to Tiberius : Interrogo, Caesar, quam 
partem rcipublicae mandari tihi velis ? That of Haterius : 
Quousque patieris Caesar non adesse caput reipublicae ? That 
of Piso, which Tacitus calls vestigium morientis lihertatis : Quo 
loco censebts, Caesar ? Si primus, haheho quod sequar : si post 
omnes, vereor ne imprudens dissentiam. That of Subrius Fla- 
vus, when askt by Nero, why he had conspired against him : 
Oderam te: odisse coepi, postquam parricida matris et uxoris 
et auriga et histrio et incendiarius exstitisti. The same thing 
is proved by the extraordinary, tumultuous address of the Sen- 
ate to Pertinax on the death of Commodus : Parricida traha- 
tur. Rogamus, Auguste : pai^icida trakatur. Exaudi Caesar. 
Delatores ad leonem. Exaudi Caesar. Delatores ad leonem. 
Exaudi Caesar. Gladiatorem in spoliario. Exaudi Caesar. 



124 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



From a couple of passages in the Augustan History indeed, 
one might imagine that Diocletian's love of pomp and cere- 
mony had shewn itself in exacting the plural from those who 
addrest him. The authors of the several Lives have not been 
satisfactorily ascertained : but in that of Marcus Aurelius the 
writer says : Deus usque etiam nunc habetur^ ut vohis ipsis, 
sacratissime imperator Diocletiane, et semper visum est et vide- 
tur : qui eum inter numina vestra^ non ut caeteros, sed speciali- 
ter veneramini, ac saepe dicitis, vos vita et dementia tales esse 
cupere, qualis fait Marcus. At the end of the Life of Lucius 
Verus, which no doubt is by the same writer, after denying the 
report that Marcus Aurelius had poisoned Yerus, he adds : 
Post Mar cum, praeter vestram clementiam, Diocletiane Auguste, 
imperatorem talem nec adulatio videatur posse confingere. How 
these two passages are to be accounted for, I know not. They 
are too personal to allow of our supposing that Maximian was 
comprehended in them. Was it an Oriental fashion, which 
Diocletian tried to introduce, along with the Persian diadem 
and silk robes and tissue of gold, and which was dropt from its 
repugnance to the genius of the Latin language ? In the other 
addresses the ordinary style is the singular ; as may be seen in 
those to Diocletian, in the lives of Elius Yerus, of Heliogaba- 
lus, and of Macrinus ; and in those to Constantine, in the Lives 
of Geta, of Alexander Severus, of the Maximins, of the Gor- 
dians, and of Claudius. 

Such too, so far as my observation has extended, was the 
style under the Byzantine Empire. In their rescripts indeed, 
and other ordinances, the Roman emperors spoke in the plural 
number, as may be seen in every other page of Justinian's 
Codex. For the use of the plural nos was already common 
among the Romans, at least among the aristocracy, in their best 
ages ; the bent of their spirit leading them to merge their own 
individual, more than any other people has ever done, in their 
social character, as members whether of their family, or of 
their order, or of the Roman nation. In this too they shewed 
that they were a nation of kings. For a soverein's duty is to 
forget his own personality, and to regard himself as the imper- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



125 



sonation of the State. He should exactly reverse Louis the 
Fourteenth's hateful and fearful speech : La France c'est moi. 
Instead of swallowing up his country in his voracious maw, he 
should identify himself with it, and feel that his whole being is 
wrapt up in his people, and that apart from them he is nothing, 
no more than a head when severed from its body. As Hegel 
says, in his Philosophy of Law (§ 279), when explaining the 
ditficulty attendant on a monarchal constitution, that the will of 
the State is to be embodied in an individual: "This does not 
mean that the monarch may act arbitrarily. On the contrary 
he is bound to the concrete substance of the measures proposed 
to him, and, if the constitution is firmly establisht, will often 
have little more to do than to sign his name. But this name is 
of importance : it is the apex, beyond which we cannot pass. 
One might say, that an organic constitution had existed in the 
noble democracy of Athens. But we see at the same time that 
the Greeks were wont to draw their ultimate decisions from 
things wholly external, from oracles, the entrails of victims, the 
flight of birds, and that they regarded Nature as a power which 
declares and pronounces what is good for man. Self-conscious- 
ness had not yet attained to the abstraction of pure subjectivity, 
to the condition in which the decisive Livill is to be uttered by 
man. This / ivill forms the great distinction between the an- 
cient and the modern world, and must therefore have its pecu- 
liar expression in the great edifice of the State. — The objec- 
tions which have been urged against monarchy, — that through 
the soverein the condition of the State becomes subject to 
chance, since he may be ill educated, or altogether unworthy of 
standing at the head of it, and that it is absurd for this to be 
the reasonable idea of a State, — are groundless, from being 
based on the assumption that the peculiarities of individual 
character are the material point. In a perfectly organized 
constitution we merely need the apex of a formal decision ; 
and the only thing indispensable in a soverein is a person who 
can say Tes, and put the dot on the L For the apex should be 
such that the peculiarities of character shall be of no moment. 
— In a well regulated monarchy the legislature determines the 



12G 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



objective measures, to which the monarch has merely to affix 
the subjective / wilU^ Hence nos, nous, wir, we, is the fitting 
style for princes in their public capacity ; as it is for all who 
are spealving and acting, not in their own persons, but as officers 
of the State. For them to say, I order so and so, might seem 
almost as impertinent, as for a servant to say, / am to have a 
party at dinner tomorrow. In these days our household ties are 
so loosened, that most servants would say. My Master is to have 
a party tomorrow, or perhaps, entirely disguising the relation 
between them, would call him Mr. A. In simpler times, when 
there was more dutiful affection and loyalty, they would* have 
said we, like Caleb Balderstone. The use of nos however by 
the Roman emperors did not involve that of vos in addresses to 
them ; any more than our calling everybody you implies that 
they call themselves we. 

It would require a long and laborious examination, with the 
command of a well-stockt public library, to make out when and 
how and by what steps the use of the plural pronoun in speak- 
ing to another became prevalent in the various languages of 
modern Europe. Grammarians have hardly turned their atten- 
tion to this point. The difficulty of such an enquiry is the 
greater, because the language of books in this respect has by 
no means fallen in with that of ordinary life. Poetry especially, 
as its aim is to lift men above the artificial conventions of soci- 
ety, has retained the natural, simple pronoun much more exten- 
sively than common speech. Hence the use of thou in poetry 
does not prove that it would have been used under the same cir- 
cumstances in conversation ; though the use of the plural pro- 
noun justifies our inferring that it was already current, and 
probably much widelier spread. In Boccaccio's Novels, wher 
one might expect to find a closer reflexion of common life, the 
singular pronoun appears to be used constantly. From his let- 
ters, however, it would seem to have been already superseded 
in most cases by the plural in the intercourse of society; though 
Ranke, in his Histories of Romanesque and Germanic Nations 
(p. 105), says of the Florentines at the end of the fifteenth 
century, that " they all called each other thou, and only used 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



127 



you or messere in speaking to a knight, a doctor, or to an uncle." 
Petrarch, -whose reverent love leads him to address Laura by 
the plural pronoun, uses the singular in sonnets written to his 
friends, and uniformly in his letters. Indeed the Roman tu 
seems to have been general in Latin epistles, except those to 
soverein princes, at least since the Revival of Learning : for in 
earlier times it had been common to use vos. We find tu con- 
stantly in Luther's letters, even in those to the Pope, in Me- 
lanchthon's, in Milton's private ones. In those written for 
Cromwell, soverein princes are called vos ; and so is Mazarin. 
The prince of Tarentum, Mcndez de Haro, and the Conde 
Mirano are tu. In the Proven9al of the Troubadours, Ray- 
nouard observes, i^os is almost always used in speaking to a 
single person. In the Fabliaux we find distinctions answering 
to those which have prevailed almost ever since in French : tu 
is used to indicate familiarity ; vous, respect. Parents say tu 
to their children, husbands to their wives: the children and 
wives use the more respectful vous. The same sort of distinc- 
tion seems to prevail in the Niebelungen Lay ; in which, as in 
the Homeric poems, the representation of manners probably 
agreed very nearly with what was actually found in the world. 
In the conversation between Chriemhild and her mother, and in 
that between Siegfried and his parents, the parents use du, the 
son and daughter ir. The princes and knights sometimes take 
one form, sometimes the other, the singular apparently where 
there is more intimacy, or more passion. Husbands and wives 
use both forms indiscriminately. Pfizer, in his Life of Luther 
(p. 22), remarks that, when Luther's father heard of his son's 
having become a monk, he wrote a severe rebuke to him, 
calling him Du, having previously used the more respectful 
plural Ihr, since he had taken his master's degree. Is the gen- 
eral prevalence of the plural in modern Europe derived from 
the Teutonic languages ? Or did it arise from the same cause 
in them and the Romanesque together ? 

In England the peculiarity has been the entire exclusion of 
thou from the language of the great body of the people. Now 
and then indeed one sees it in those loveletters which are un- 



128 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



lucky enough to find their way into a court of justice : but it is 
not appropriated, as in France, Italy, and Germany, for the ex- 
pression of familiarity. We enter into no bond to thou one 
another, as our neighbours do to tutoyer^ and to didzen. This 
may be a mark of our characteristic reserve and shrinking from 
every demonstration of feeling. But when was this sentence of 
banishment against thou issued ? In Robert of Gloucester, and 
our other old verse chroniclers, it seems to be the constant word, 
being used even by Cordelia in her reply to her father. So is 
it in Peirs Plouhman ; the nature of which work, however, 
leads us to look for a close adherence to the language of the 
Bible : and I doubt whether even Mr Belsham can have gone 
so far in modernizing the words of the Scriptures, as to substi- 
tute you for tliou. That no conclusion can be drawn from Peirs 
Plouhman Avith regard to the usage, at least of the higher classes 
in his time, is clear from Chaucer ; in whom you, except in pas- 
sages of familiarity or elevation, is the customary pronoun. 
From Gower too one may infer that tliou was then deemed ap- 
propriate to the language of familiarity, you to that of respect. 
The Confessor regularly uses thou to the Lover ; the Lover you 
or ye to the Confessor. Shakspeare's practice would seem to 
imply that a distinction, like that which prevailed on the Conti- 
nent, was also recognised in England. Prospero for instance, 
except in two places, constantly says thou to Miranda ; while 
she always replies with you. The same thing is observable in 
most of Lear's speeches to his daughters, and in Volumnia's 
more affectionate ones to Coriolanus. When she puts on the 
reserve of offended dignity, she says you. Yet I have not no- 
ticed any instance of thou in Ellises Collection of Letters ; 
though some of them go back as far as the reign of Henry the 
Fifth : but in few of them could one expect it. From Poper's 
beautiful Life of Sir Thomas More, however, we perceive, that 
fathers in his days would occasionally, though not uniformly, 
thou their children. " Lo, dost thou not see, Megg, (he said to 
his daughter, when looking out of his prison-window, while 
Reynolds and three other monks were led to execution,) that 
these blessed fathers be now as cheerfully going to their deaths. 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



129 



as bridegrooms to their marriage ? Wherefore thereby mayest 
thou see, mine own good daughter, what a great difference there 
is between such as have in effect spent all their days in a strait, 
hard, penitential, and painful life, religiously, and such as have 
in the world, like worldly wretches, as thy poor father hath done, 
consumed all their time in pleasure and ease licentiously. For 
God, considering their long-continued life in most sore and 
grievous penance, will no longer suffer them to remain here in 
this vale of misery and iniquity, but speedily hence taketh them 
to the fruition of his everlasting Deity. Whereas thy silly father, 
Megg, that, like a most wicked caitiff, hath past forth the whole 
course of his miserable life most sinfully, God, thinking him not 
worthy so soon to come to that eternal felicity, leaveth him here 
yet still in the world further to be plagued and turmoiled with 
misery." The same thing may be seen in the Earl of North- 
umberland's speech to his son, in Cavendishes Life of Wolsey, 
when he is warning him against displeasing the king by making 
love to Anne Boleyn. Wolsey too, in whose service Lord Percy 
was, talks to him in the same paternal style. From Charles the 
First's last words to the Duke of Gloucester, we perceive that 
this practice even then was not obsolete, at least in speaking to 
young children. " Sweetheart, now they will cut off thy father's 
head. Mark, child, what I say : they will cut off my head, and 
perhaps make thee a king. But mark what I say : you must 
not be a king so long as your brother Charles and James do 
live. For they will cut off your brothers heads, (when they 
can catch them,) and cut off thy head too at last ; and therefore, 
I charge you, do not be made a king by them." In Lord Ca- 
pel's letter to his wife, written on the day on which he w^as be- 
headed, in 1649, he uses thou throughout. "My eternal life is 
in Christ Jesus : my worldly considerations in the highest de- 
gree thou hast deserved. Let me live long here in thy dear 
memory. I beseech thee, take care of thy health: sorrow not, 
afflict not thyself too much. God will be to thee better than a 
husband, and to my children better than a father." 

There was another usage of thou, which prevailed for some 
centuries, namely, in speaking to inferiors. When you came 
6* I 



130 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



into use among the higher classes, the lower were still addrest 
with thou. Living in closer communion with Nature, with her 
simple, permanent forms and ever-recurring operations, they 
are in great measure exempted from the capricious sway of 
Fashion, which tosses about the upper twigs and leaves of soci- 
ety, but seldom shakes the trunk. Or at least they were so till 
lately : for the enormous increase of traffic of every kind, and 
the ceaseless inroads of the press, which is sending its emissaries 
into every cottage, are rapidly changing their character. Yet 
still one regards and treats them much more as children of 
Nature: and a judicious man would as soon think of feeding 
them with kickshaws and ragoos, as of talking to them in any 
but the plainest, homeliest words. "What a broad distinction 
was made with regard to the personal pronoun, may be seen in 
the interesting account of William Thorpe's examination on a 
charge of heresy before the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1407 ; 
w^here the archbishop and his clerks uniformly thou him, not 
insultingly, but as a matter of course ; w^iile he always uses 
you in his answers. The same distinction is apparent in the 
dialogues between Othello and lago. Thus it has happened 
that we find thou in many of the noblest speeches on record, the 
last words of great and good men to the executioner on the 
scaffold : and in legal murders of the great and good, notwith- 
standing the boasted excellence of our laws and courts of jus- 
tice, the history of England is richer than that of any other 
country. It does one good to read such words : so I will quote 
a few examples. For instance, those of Sir Thomas More: 
Pluck up thy spirits, man, and be not afraid to do thine office ; 
my neck is very short ; take heed therefore, thou strike not awry, 
for saving of thine honesty. Those of Fisher, the pious Bishop 
of Rochester, when the executioner knelt down to him and 
besought his forgiveness: I forgive thee with all my heart; 
and I trust thou shalt see me overcome this storm lustily. Those 
of the Duke of Suffolk on the same occasion : God forgive thee ! 
and I do ; and when thou dost thine office, I pray thee do it well, 
and bring me out of this world quickly ; and God have mercy 
on thee ! When Raleigh was led to the scafibld, a bald-headed 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



131 



old man prest through the crowd, and prayed that God would 
support him. / thank thee, my good friend, said Raleigh to 
him, and am sorry I am in no case to return thee anything for 
thy good will. But here (observing his bald head), take this 
nightcap ; thou hast more need of it now than 1. Shortly after, 
he bade the executioner shew him the axe : / prithee let me see 
it. Dost thou think I am af raid of it ? And after he had laid 
his head on the block, the blow being delayed, he lifted himself 
up and said : What dost thou fear ? strike, man. In Lady Jane 
Grey's words indeed, as they are given by Foxe, we find you : 
Pray you, dispatch me quickly. Will you take it off before I lie 
down ? Perhaps it may have seemed to her gentle spirit that 
thou was somewhat unfeminine : though it was the word used 
by mistresses in speaking to their servants, as we may perceive 
from the scenes between Olivia and Malvolio, and from those 
between Julia and Lucetta in the Tivo Gentlemen of Verona ; 
where Julia, when she is offended with her maid, passes from 
the familiar thou to the more distant you. 

It might be imagined that the adoption of the simple pro- 
noun in these speeches was occasioned by the solemnity of the 
moment, impelling the parting spirit to cast off" the artificial, 
conventional drapery of society. But, — not to mention that 
this itself would have been idle affectation, to have taken 
thought at such a moment about using a word at variance with 
the language of ordinary life, — in speeches made at the same 
time to persons of their own rank we find the same men saying 
you : and other anecdotes in the biographies of the sixteenth 
century shew that thou was in common use then in speaking to 
the lower orders, and even to inferiors, who were above them. 
When Bernard Gilpin begged Bishop Tonstal to allow that he 
would resign either his rectory or archdeaconry, that excellent 
bishop replied. Have I not told thee beforehand, that thou loilt be 
a beggar ? I found them combined ; and combined Iivill leave 
them. And among Gilpin's numberless acts of benevolence, it 
is related that, in one of his rides, seeing a man much cast 
down by the loss of a horse that had just fallen dead, he told 
the man he should have the one on which his servant was 



132 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



mounted. Ah master, said the countryman, m^/ pocket will not 
reach such a beast as that. Come, come ! answered Gilpin ; tahe 
him ; take him ; and when I demand my money, then thou shalt 
pay me. If so many examples of this usage are from dying 
words, it is because such words have been more carefully re- 
corded, as precious and sacred memorials. 

This use of a different pronoun in speaking to the lower 
orders was in some measure analogous to that of er, which still 
prevails, and was moi-e general a few years since, in Germany ; 
where it was long thought unbecoming for a gentleman to hold 
any direct personal communication with a boor, or to speak to 
him otherwise than as if he w^ere a third person. We on the 
other hand consider it illbred to use he or she in speaking of 
any one present. 

Hence, as the use of er to a gentleman in Germany is deemed 
a gross offense, which is often to be expiated with blood, so 
W'as the use of thou in England. This was one of the dis- 
graceful insults to which Coke had recourse, when argument 
and evidence failed him, at Raleigh's trial. All that Lord Cob- 
ham did, he cried, was at thy instigation, thou viper : for I thou 
thee, thou traitor. And again, when he had been completely 
baffled, he exclaimed : Thou art the most vile and execrable trai- 
tor that ever lived. I want words sufficient to express thy viper- 
ous treasons. When Sir Toby Belch is urging Sir Andrew 
Aguecheek to send a challenge to Viola, he says, If thou thoust 
him some thrice it shall not be amiss ; in which words the com- 
mentators have needlessly sought an allusion to Raleigh's trial. 
There is not a syllable in the context to point the allusion, or to 
remind the hearer either of Raleigh or of Coke. They merely 
shew, as Coke's behaviour also shews, that to thou a man was a 
grievous insult : and that it was so, George Fox and his follow- 
ers some time after found to their great cost. 

This is well known to be still the shibboleth of Quakerism, 
the only one probably among the Founder's tenets which has 
always been held inviolate and inviolable by every member of 
the sect. For all sects cling the longest to that which is out- 
ward and formal in their peculiar creed, and are often the more 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



133 



tenacious of it, the more their original spirit has evaporated ; 
among other reasons, because by so doing alone can they pre- 
serve°their sectarian existence. In George Fox himself the 
determination to thou all men was not a piece of capricious 
trifling. It flowed from the principle which pervaded his whole 
conduct, the desire of piercing through the husk and coating of 
forms in which men's hearts and souls were wrapt up, and of 
drao-o-ino- them out from their lurking-places into the open light 
of day ; although, as extremes are ever begettmg one another, 
it has come to pass that no sect is so enslaved, so bound hand 
and foot by forms, as they who started by crying out against 
and casting away all forms. Thus Nature ever avenges herself, 
and reestablishes the balance, which man had overweeningly 
disturbed. 

It was at the very beginning of his preaching, that he, who 
set out on the glorious enterprise of converting all men into 
friends, tells us in his Journal : " When the Lord sent me forth 
into the world, I was required to Thee and Thou all men and 
women, without any respect to rich or poor, great or small. 
But oh ! the rage that then was in the priests, magistrates, pro- 
fessors, and people of all sorts, but especially in priests and pro- 
fessors. For though thou to a single person was according to 
their own learning, their accidence and grammar rules, and 
according to the Bible, yet they could not bear to hear it." 
This was in 1 648 : but his practice continued to give offense 
for many years after. In 1661, he says, "the book called the 
Battledoor came forth written to shew that in all languages thou 
and thee is the proper and usual form of speech to a single per- 
son, and you to more than one. This was set forth in examples 
taken out of the Scriptures, and out of books of teaching in 
about thirty languages. When the book was finisht, some of 
them were presented to the King and his Council, to the 
Bishops of Canterbury and London (Juxon and Sheldon), and 
to the two Universities one apiece. The King said, it was the 
proper language of all nations : and the Bishop of Canterbury, 
being askt what he thought of it; was so at a stand that he 
could not tell what to say. For it did so inform and convince 



134 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



people, that few afterward were so rugged toward us for saying 
> thou and thee to a single person, which before they were ex- 
ceeding fierce against us for. For this thou and thee Avas a sore 
cut to proud flesh, and them that sought self-honour; who, 
though they would say it to God and Christ, would not endure 
" to have it said to themselves. So that we were often beaten 
and abused, and sometimes in danger of our lives, for using 
those words to some proud men, who would say, What, you ill- 
bred clown, do you thou me ! as though there lay breeding, in 
saying you to one, which is contrary to all their grammars." 

In all this there is no slight admixture of ignorance and of 
presumption ; as is mostly the case with the vehement opposers 
and defiers of customs not plainly and radically immoral. Of 
the ignorance one should have no right to complain, were it not 
for the presumption which thrusts it forward. But the whole 
proceeding, as Henry More rightly urges in his letter to Penn, 
— who had employed a chapter of his No Cross, No Crown, in 
an ingenious and elaborate vindication of the usage of his 
sect, — is inconsistent " with that generosity and freedom and 
charity and kind complacency, that, one would think, did natu- 
rally accompany a truly Christian spirit. The great and royal 
law, which is to measure all our Christian actions, is, Thou 
shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul, 
and thy neighbour as thyself. And one point of our love to our 
neighbour is not to give him offense ; but to comply with him 
in things of an indifferent nature, as all things are that are not 
of their own nature evil, — unless some Divine law, or the law 
of our superiors has bound us. But no law, neither Divine or 
human, has bound us, but that we may say you, when the 
Quakers say thou, to a single person. Nay, Custom, which is 
another Nature, and another Law, and from whence words 
derive their signification, has not only made you to signify as 
well singularly as plurally, — but has superadded a significa- 
tion of a moderate respect used in the singular sense ; as it has 
added to thou, of the highest respect and reverence (for no 
man will You God, but use the pronoun Thou to Him), or 
else of the greatest familiarity or contempt. So that the 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



135 



proper use of you and thou is settled by a long and universal 
custom." 

By these absurdities, simple, honest George Fox sadly 
maimed his own strength, and lessened the good he might 
else have effected. So far indeed he was right, that in a 
regenerate world the bars and bolts, which sever and estrange 
man from man, would burst, like the doors of St. Paul's prison 
at Philippi, and that every man's bands would be loost. Some- 
thing of the kind may be seen even now in the openhearted 
confidence and affection, which prevail almost at sight among 
such as find themselves united to each other by the love of a 
common Saviour, — a confidence and affection foreshewing the 
blessed Communion of Samts. But this is likeher to be re- 
tarded than promoted by efforts to change the outward form, 
so long as the spirit is unchanged. The very habit of using 
words which belong to a higher state of feeling than we our- 
selves have attained to, deadens the sense of truth, and causes 
a dismal rent in the soul. I am speaking only of such things 
as are not contrary to good manners. Whatever is must be 
quelled, before the inward change can be wrought. But that 
which is indifferent, or solely valuable as the expression of some 
inward state of feeling, should be left to spring spontaneously 
from the source, without which it is worthless. 

How must Charles the Second have laught in his sleeve, 
when he acknowleged that thou and thee was the proper lan- 
guage of all nations ! " Perhaps it was out of hostility to 
Quakerism and Puritanism, of which thou was deemed the 
watchword, that it fell so entirely into disuse, as it seems to 
have done amonsr all ranks in the latter half of the seven- 
teenth century. Locke indeed uses it in his Prefatory Ad- 
dresses to the Reader. In sermons, when the preacher is 
appealing to his hearers severally and personally, it is often 
introduced with much solemnity ; as, for instance, in the follow- 
ing grand passage of Donne (^Sermon ii. p. 27). "As the sun 
does not set to any nation, but withdraw itself, and return again, 
God, in the exercise of His mercy, does not set to thy soul, 
though he benight it with an affliction. — The blessed Virgin 



136 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



was overshadowed ; but it was with the Holy Ghost that over- 
shadowed her : thine understanding, thy conscience may be so 
too ; and yet it may be the work of the Holy Ghost, who moves 
in thy darkness, and will bring light even out of that, knowl- 
edge out of thine ignorance, clearness out of thy scruples, and 
consolation out of thy dejection of spirit. God is thy portion, 
says David. David does not speak so narrowly, so penuriously, 
as to say, God hath given thee thy portion, and thou must look 
for no more : but, God is thy portion ; and, as long as He is 
God, He hath more to give ; and, as long as thou art His, thou 
hast more to receive. Thou canst not have so good a title to a 
subsequent blessing, as a former blessing : where thou art an 
ancient tenant, thou wilt look to be preferred before a stranger ; 
and that is thy title to God's future mercies, if thou have been 
formerly accustomed to them. — Though thou be but a taber- 
nacle of earth, God shall raise thee piece by piece into a spirit- 
ual building ; and after one story of creation, and another of 
vocation, and another of sanctification. He shall bring thee up 
to meet thyself in the bosom of thy God, where thou wast at first 
in an eternal election. God is a circle Himself ; and He will 
make thee one : go not thou about to square either circle, to 
bring that which is equal in itself to angles and corners, into 
dark and sad suspicions of God, or of thyself, that God can 
give, or that thou canst receive, no more mercy than thou hast 
had already." 

Our poets too still bring forward this pronoun now and then 
for the sake of distinguishing their language from that of prose : 
but they are seldom guided by any determinate principle, or 
even by any clear perception of the occasions when it may be 
appropriate. It is perhaps a singular phenomenon in a culti- 
vated language, that scarcely a writer seems to know when he 
ought to use such words as thou, you, and ye. 

Even the Quakers, at least of late years, as they have been 
gradually paring away the other tokens of their sect, their coats 
and hats and bonnets, generally soften the full-mouthed thou 
into thee ; whereby moreover they gain the advantage of a two- 
fold offense against grammar. For this seems to be one of the 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



137 



ways in which an Englishman delights to display his love of 
freedom, — by riding over grammatical rules. A Quaker will 
now say, Do thee ivish for this ? Will thee come to me ? thus 
getting rid of what in our language is felt to be such an in- 
cumbrance, one of our few remaining grammatical inflexions. 
Perhaps our aversion to using the second person of the verb 
may not have been inoperative in expelling thou from our 
speech. In truth it is by no means so apt a word for express- 
ing the personality of another symbolically, as tu and du ; by 
which the lips are protruded toward the person we are ad- 
dressing, pointing to him, and almost shaping themselves for a 
kiss ; as though they belonged to a world in which all man- 
kind were brethren. You in this respect has the better of thou. 

As George Foxes attempt to thoit and fraternize all man- 
kind was coincident with the outbreak of our Rebellion, so at 
the beginning of the French Revolution it became the fashion 
to fraternize and tutoyer everybody. At first this piay strike us 
as another of the thousand and one examples of extremes 
meeting. But frequent as such meetings are, the general for- 
mule which embraces, does not explain them : and though 
there were great and glaring differences between the Jacobins 
and the early Quakers, there were also several points of resem- 
blance. They had the same eager dislike of every existing 
institution, on the mere ground of its existing, — the same 
unhesitating trust in their own impulses, whether regarded as 
the dictates of the Spirit, or of reason : they both cherisht the 
same delusive notion, that by pruning and lopping they should 
regenerate mankind. The practice of thouing belonged to 
them both : the refusal of respect to authority and rank be- 
longed to them both : both indulged in a dream of universal 
peace. The Jacobinical metonomatosis of the months, and of 
the days of the week, might be lookt upon as a parody of the 
Quakerian : only their hatred of all religion extended even to 
these relics of Polytheism : and it was an act suited to the ver- 
min that were then breedinor and crawlinoj about the moulder- 
ing carcass of European society, to revive the notion, which has 
been ascribed to Pythagoras, that number is the only god. 



138 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



It is cheering to observe, how even in these things patient 
endurance is far mightier than violence, feeble as the one, pow- 
erful as the other may appear at the moment. Whatever is 
good strikes root: Nature and Time delight to foster it: so 
long as its spirit lasts, they preserve it ; and often long after. 
But evil they reject and disgorge. George Foxes institution 
still subsists after the lapse of two centuries : that of the Jaco- 
bins soon past away; though not without leaving a trace 
behind. " Le tutoiement (says Bonald, Pensees, p. 29) s'est 
retranche dans la famille : et apres avoir tutoye tout le monde, 
on ne tutoie plus que ses pere et mere. Get usage met toute 
la maison a I'aise : il dispense les parens d'autorite, et les 
enfans de respect." This seems over-severe. When a like 
change took place in Germany at the end of the last century, 
and was reprehended as an instance of pert forwardness, it 
was replied that, in speaking to our Heavenly Father, we 
always call him Thou. It is a sign how lamentably the sense 
of the true relation between a father and a son had decayed, 
that it should have been deemed right to enforce the reverence 
of the son by clothing him in the stiff forms of conventional 
breeding. In some recent works of fiction, petulant children 
are represented as saying Du to parents, while the modest and 
wellbred shew their respect by using Sie. Of Solger, it is 
related, in the Preface to his Remains, that, when he was a 
boy, he and his younger brother used to call each other Sie, 
which, in their childish quarrels, gave a comic solemnity to 
their tone. In those letters of deep, passionate love, which 
have just been exposed to the eyes of all Europe in conse- 
quence of an unheard of crime, the illfated Duchess of Praslin 
ordinarily addresses her miserable husband with the familiar 
tu, but at times, assuming the language of outraged dignity, 
uses vous. Among the Germans, it is well known that to thou 
a person is a sign of the most intimate friendship. When 
Zelter sends Goethe an account of the death of his son, Goethe 
in his answer tacitly for the first time calls him du, as it were, 
saying, I will do what I can to replace thy lost son hy being a 
brother to thee. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



139 



This substitution of the plural you for the singular thou is 
only one among many devices which have been adopted for the 
sake of veiling over the plainspeaking familiarity of the latter. 
The Germans commonly call yo^i they ; the Italians she and 
her, which may be regarded as a type of their national effemi- 
nacy. In the Malay languages, we are told by Marsden, a 
variety of substitutes for the first and second pronoun are in 
use, by which the speaker betokens his own inferiority, or the 
superiority of the person he is addressing. This seems to be 
common in Oriental languages, and answers to what we often 
find in the Bible ; for instance in 2 Samuel, c. xix. In Asia 
man seems hardly to have found out his own personality, or 
that of others. u. 



After all, they are strange and mighty words, these two 
little pronouns, / and Thou, the mightiest perhaps in the whole 
compass of language. The name Pronoun indeed is not quite 
strictly appropriate to them : for, as the great master of the 
philosophy of language, William Humboldt, observes, " they 
are not mere substitutes for the names of the persons for whom 
they stand, but involve the personality of the speaker, and of 
the person spoken to, and the relation between them." /is the 
word which man has in common with God, the Eternal, Self- 
existing / AM. Thou is the word with which God and his 
Conscience speak to man, the word with which man speaks and 
communes with God and his neighbour. All other words, 
without these two, would belong to things : / and Thou are 
inseparable from personality, and bestow personality on what- 
ever they are applied to. They are the two primary elements 
and conditions of all speech, which implies a speaker, and a 
person spoken to : and they are the indispensable complements, 
each to the other ; so that neither idea could have been called 
forth in man without the help of its mate. 

This is why it was not good for man to be alone. What in 
truth would Adam have been, if Eve had never been created ? 
What was he before her creation ? A solitary I, without a 
thou. Can there be such a being ? Can the human mind be 



140 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



awakened, except by the touch of a kindred mind ? Can the 
spark of consciousness be eHcited, except by colUsion ? Or 
are we to believe that his communion with God was intimate 
enough to supply the place of communion with beings of his 
own kind? 

The indispensableness of an object to arouse the subject is 
finely set before us in Troilus and Cressida, in the Dialogue 
between Ulysses and Achilles. 

Ulysses. A strange fellow here 

Writes me that man, — how dearly ever pai-ted, 
How much in having, or without, or in, — 
Cannot make boast to have that which he hath, 
Nor feels not what he owes, but by reflexion : 
• As Avhen his virtues shining upon others 
Heat them, and they retort that heat again 
To the first giver. 

Achilles. This is not strange, Ulysses. 

The beauty that is borne here in the face 
The beai-er knows not, but commends itself 
To others eyes : nor doth the eye itself. 
That most pure spirit of sense, behold itself, 
Not going from itself: but eye to eye opposed 
Salutes each other with each other's form. 
For speculation turns not to itself, 
Till it hath traveld, and is married there 
Where it may see itself. 

Hence it is only by the reciprocal action of these two ideas, 
the continual play and weaving of them one into the other, that 
a true system of philosophy can be constructed. In a logical 
vacuum indeed /may dream that it can stand alone ; and then 
it will compass itself about with a huge zero, an all-absorbing 
negation, summing up everything out of itself, as Fichte did, in 
the most audacious word ever coined by man, Nicht-ich, or 
Not-L His system, a work of prodigious energy and logical 
power, was the philosophical counterpart to the political edifice 
which was set up at the same time in France: and its main 
fallacy was the very same, the confounding of the particular 
subjective mind with the eternal, universal mind of the Allwise, 
— the fancy that, as God pours all truth out of Himself, man 
may in like manner draw all truth out of himself, — and the 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



141 



forgetting that, beside /and Not-I, there is also a Thou in the 
world, our relations to whom, in their manifold varieties, are 
the source of all our affections, and of all our duties. 

By the way, some persons may think that we have cause to 
congratulate ourselves on the bareness of our I, which is such 
that nothing can adhere to it ; inasmuch as it thereby forms a 
kind of palisade around us, preserving us from the inroads of 
German philosophy. Nobody acquainted with the various sys- 
tems, which have sprung up since Kant sowed the teeth of the 
serpent he had slain, and which have been warring against 
each other from that time forward, can fail to perceive that in 
England they must all have been still-born, were it solely from 
the impossibility of forming any derivatives or compounds from 
our 1. One cannot stir far in those systems without such words 
as Ichheit, ichheitlich, ichlich, Nicht-ich. But the genius of our 
language would never have allowed people to talk about Ihood, 
Ihoodly, 111/, Not-L Like the sceptre of Achilles, our / ovnore 
(jivXXa Kal o^ovs ^vaei, eVetSj) npcoTa TOfxfjv iv opeacn "XeXonreu. 

And this, which is true of our pronoun, is also true of that 
for which it stands. No old stick, no iron bar, no bare I, can 
be more unproductive and barren than Self, when cut off and 
isolated from the tree on which it was set to grow. u. 

Everybody has heard of one speech in Seneca's Medea, small 
as may be the number of those whose acquaintance with that 
poet has gone much further. In truth the very conception of a 
tragedy written by a Stoic is anything but inviting, and may be 
deemed scarcely less incongruous than a garden of granite. 
Nor would this furnish an unsuitable emblem of those trage- 
dies : the thoughts are about as hard and stiff ; and the charac- 
ters have almost as much life in them. 

Still there is one speech in them, which is sufficiently noto- 
rious. When Medea's nurse exhorts her to be patient, by urg- 
ing the forlornness of her situation, reminding her how 

Abiere Colchi; conjugis nulla est fides; 
Nihilque superest opibus e tantis tibi ; 

she answers, Medea superest : and thus far her answer is a fine 



142 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



one. But the rhetorician never knew when to have done, in 

the accumulation either of gold or of words. For, while truth 

and genius are simple and brief, affectation and hypocrisy, 

whether moral or intellectual, are conscious that their words 

are mere bubbles, and blow them till they burst. What follows 

is wild nonsense : 

Medea superest : liic mare et terras vides, 
FexTumque, et ignes, et deos, et fulmina. 

Now how should one translate these two words, Medea super' 
est ? They are easy enough to construe : but an English poet 
would hardly make her say, Medea is left, or Medea remains. 
The question occurred to me the other day, when listening to a 
modern opera of little worth, except for the opportunity it has 
afforded Madame Pasta for putting forth her extraordinary 
tragic powers ; powers to which, as there exhibited, I know not 
what has been seen comparable in any actress, since she who 
shed such splendour over the stage in our younger days, welcomed 
her son back to Rome. Volumnia, I believe, was the last part 
Mrs. Siddons ever played: at least it was the last I saw her in: 
and well did it become her in the days of her matronly dignity. 
Even now, after near twenty years, I still seem to hear the tone 
of exulting joy and motherly pride, bursting through her effoils 
to repress it, when, raising her kneeling son, she cried. 

Nay, my good soldier, up ! 
My gentle ]\Iai-cius, worthy Caius, and 
By deed atehieving honour newly-named . . . 
What is it ? Coriolanus must I call thee ? 

Nor will any one easily forget the exclamation with which Me- 
dea repells Jason's question, Che mi resta ? the simple pronoun 
lo. The situations are somewhat unlike : but the passage is 
evidently an imitation of that in Seneca's tragedy, or at least 
has come from it at second or third hand. For Corneille's cele- 
brated Moi, which the French have extolled as though it had 
been the grandest word in all poetry, must no doubt have been 
the medium it past through, being itself merely a prior copy of 
the same original. In the French tragedy too a like change 
has been made from the name to the pronoun : and one feels 



GUf]SSES AT TRUTH. 



U3 



that this change is imperatively required by the spirit of modern 
times. An ancient poet could not have used the pronoun : a 
modern poet in such a situation could hardly use the proper 
name. 

But is not this at variance with what was said before about 
the readiness of the ancients, and the comparative reluctance in 
modern times, to make use of the simple personal pronouns ? 

No : for this very contrast arises from the objective character 
of their minds, and the subjective character of ours. They had 
less deep and wakeful feelings connected with the personal pro- 
noun, and therefore used it more freely. But, from attaching 
less importance to it, when they wanted to speak emphatically, 
they had recourse to the proper name. Above all was this the 
case among the Romans, with whom names had a greater power 
than with any other people ; owing mainly to the political insti- 
tutions, which gave the Roman houses a vitality unexampled 
elsewhere ; so that the same names shine in the Fasti for cen- 
tury after century, encircled with the honours of nearly twenty 
generations. Hence a Roman prized and loved his name, almost 
as something independent and out of himself, as a kind of house- 
hold god : and he could speak proudly of it, without being with- 
held by the bashfulness of vanity. Even the immortality which 
a Greek or Roman lookt chiefly to, was that of his name. 

We on the other hand have been taught that there is some- 
thing within us far more precious and far more lasting than 
anything that is merely outward. Hence the word / has a 
charm and a power, which it never had before, a power too 
which has gone on growing, till of late years it has almost swal- 
lowed up every other. Two examples of this were just now 
alluded to, Fichte's egoical philosophy, and the French Consti- 
tution, in which everything was deduced from the rights of man, 
without regard to the rights of men, or to the necessities of 
things. The same usurpation shews itself under a number of 
other phases, even in religion. Catholic religion has well-nigh 
been split up into personal, so that the very idea of the former 
is almost lost ; and it is the avowed principle of what is called 
the Religious World, that everybody's paramount, engrossing 



144 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



duty is to take care of his own soul. Of which principle the 
philosophical caricature is, that Selfishness is the source of all 
morality, the ground of benevolence, and the only safe founda- 
tion for a State to build on. Thus the awakening of our self- 
consciousness, which was aroused, in order that, perceiving the 
hoUowness and rottenness of that self, we might endeavour to 
stifle and get quit of it, has in many respects rather tended to 
make us more its slaves than ever. In truth it may be said of 
many a man, that he is impaled upon his 1. This is as it were 
the stake, which is driven through the soul of the spiritual 
suicide. 

Still there are seasons, when, asserting its independence of 
all outward things, an / may have great Stoical dignity and 
grandeur ; especially if it rises from the midst of calamities, 
like a mast still erect and unbending from a wreck. " Frappe 
deux fois de la foudre, — says De Maistre (Soirees de Saint 
Petershourg, i. 11) alluding to the losses and sufferings he had 
to endure in the Revolution, — je n'ai plus de droit a ce qu'on 
appelle vulgairement bonheur. J'avoue meme qu'avant de 
m'etre raffermi par de salutaires reflexions, il m'est arrive trop 
souvent de me demander a moi-meme, Que me reste-t-il! Mais 
la conscience, a force de me repondre Moi, m'a fait rougir de 
ma foiblesse." 

In a certain sense moreover, and that a most awful one, the 
question Quid superest ? concerns us all. For to all a time will 
come, when we shall be stript as bare of every outward thing, 
in which we have been wont to trust, as Medea could ever be. 
And one answer which we shall all have to make to that ques- 
^ tion, will be the same as hers. Wlien everything else has past 
away from me, / shall still remain. But alas for those who 
will have no other answer than this ! ^• 

No people, I remarkt just now, ever had so lively a feeling of 
the power of names as the Romans. This is a feature of that 
political instinct, which characterizes them above every other 
nation, and which seems to have taught them from the very 
origin of their state, that their calling and destiny was regere 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



145 



imperio populos ; whereby moreover tliey were endowed with 
an ahnost unerring sagacity for picking out and appropriating 
all such institutions as were fitted to forward their two great 
works, of conquering and of governing the world. 

In the East we seldom hear of any names, except those of 
the sovereins and their favorites : and those of both classes 
often become extinct before the natural close of their lives. In 
Greece the individual comes forward on the ground of liis own 
character, without leaning on his ancestors for support. The 
descendants of Aristides, of Pericles, of Brasidas, were scarcely 
distino-uisht from their fellowcitizens. But in Rome the name 
of the house and family predominated over that of the individ- 
ual. It is at Rome that we first find family names or surnames, 
names which do not expire with their owners, but are transmit- 
ted from generation to generation, carrying down the honours 
they have already earned, and continually receiving fresh in- 
fluxes of fame. Traces of a like institution are indeed per- 
ceivable in others of the old Italian nations, and even among 
the Greeks : but it is among the Romans that we first become 
familiar with it, and behold its political power. By means of 
their names, political principles, political duties, political affec- 
tions were imprest on the minds of the Romans from their birth. 
Every member of a great house had a determinate course markt 
out for him, the path in which his forefathers had trod: his 
name admonisht him of what he owed to his country. The 
Talerii, the Fabii, the Claudii, the Cornelii had special and 
mighty motives to prompt them to patriotism : and a twofold 
disgrace awaited them, if they shrank from their post. This 
has been observed by Desbrosses, in his Traite du Mecanisme 
des Langues. " L'usage des noms hereditaires (he says) a pro- 
digieusement influe sur la fa^on de penser et sur les moeurs. 
On sait quel admirable effet il a produit chez les Romains. 
Rien n'a contribue davantage a la grandeur de la republique 
que cette methode de succession nominale, qui, incorporant, 
pour ainsi dire, a la gloire de I'etat, la gloire des noms heredi- 
taires, joignit le patriotisme de race au patriotisme national." 
Niebuhr (vol. ii. p. 376) has pointed out how the measures of 



146 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



eminent Koman statesmen were often considered as heirlooms, 
so as to be perfected or revived by namesakes of their first 
proposers, even after the lapse of centuries. And who can 
doubt that the younger Cato's mind was stirred by the renown 
of the elder ? or that the example of the first Brutus haunted 
the second, and whispered to him, that it behoved him also, at 
whatsoever cost of personal affection, to deliver his country 
from the tyrant? 

The same feeling, the same influence of names, manifests 
itself in the history of the Italian Eepublics. Nor have the 
other nations of modern Europe been without it. Only unfor- 
tunately the frivolous love of titles, and the petty ambition of 
mounting from one step in the peerage to another, have stunted 
its power. How much greater and brighter would the great 
names in our history have been, — the names of Howard, and 
Percy, and Nevile, and Stanley, and Wentworth, and Russell, 
— if so much of their glory had not been drawn off upon other 
titles, which, though persons verst in pedigrees know them to 
belong to the same blood, are not associated with them in the 
minds of the people ? This may be one of the reasons why our 
nobility has produced so few great men, that is, considering the 
means and opportunities afforded by our Constitution. Great 
men rise up into it ; and a title is put as an extinguisher upon 
them. "What is the most gorgeous, highflown title which a 
soverein of France could devise, even were it that of arch- 
grand-duke, compared with the name of Montmorency ? The 
Spanish grandees shew a truer aristocratical feeling, in wear- 
ing their oldest titles, instead of what are vulgarly deemed their 
highest. 

For the true spirit of an aristocracy is not personal, but cor- 
porate. He who is animated by that spirit, would rather be a 
branch of a great tree, than a sucker from it. The dema- 
gogue's aim and triumph is to be lifted up on the shoulders of 
the mob : when thus borne aloft, he exults, however unsteady 
his seat, however rapidly he may be sure to fall. But the aris- 
tocrat is content to abide within the body of his order, and to 
derive his honour and influence from his order, more than from 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



147 



himself. The glory of his ancestors is his. Another symptom 
of the all-engulting whirl with which the feeling of personality 
has been swallowing up everything else for the last century, is 
the stale, flat ridicule lavisht by every witling and dullard on 
those who take pride in an illustrious ancestry. We had be- 
come unable to understand any honour but that which was per- 
sonal, any merit or claim but personal. We had dwindled and 
shrunk into a host of bare les. 

Even the way in which a Roman begins his letter, heading 
it with his name at full length, was significant. Whereas we 
skulk with ours into a cornei*, and often pare it down to in- 
itials, u. 



A rumpled rose-leaf lay in my path. There was one little 
stain on it : but it was still very sweet. Why was it to be 
trampled under foot, or lookt on as food for swine ? 

There is as much difference between good poetry and fine 
verses, as between the smell of a flower-garden and of a per- 
fumer's shop. 

When you see an action in itself noble, to suspect the sound- 
ness of its motive is like supposing everything high, mountains 
among the rest, to be hollow. Yet how many unbelieving 
behevers pride themselves on this uncharitable folly ! These 
are your silly vulgar-wise, your shallow men of penetration, 
who measure all things by their own littleness, and who, by 
professing to know nothing else, seem to fancy they earn an 
exclusive right to know human nature. Let none such be 
trusted in their judgements upon any one, not even on them- 
selves always. 

Certain writers of works of fiction seem to delight in playing 
at cup and ball with vice and virtue. Is it right, you thought 
you saw ? you find it to be wrong : ivrong ? presto ! it has 
become right. Their hero is a moral prodigy, mostly profligate, 
often murderous, not seldom both ; but, whether both or either, 



148 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



always virtuous. Possessing, as they inform us, a fine under- 
standing, resolved, as he is ever assuring us, to do right in 
despite of all mankind, he is perpetually falling into actions 
atrocious and detestable, — not from the sinfulness of human 
nature, — not from carelessness, or presumption, or rashly 
dallying Avith temptation, — but because the world is a moral 
labyrinth, every winding in which leads to monstrous evil. 
Such an entanglement of circumstances is devised, as God never 
permits to occur, except perhaps in extraordinary times to 
extraordinary men. Into these the hero is thrown headlong ; 
and every foul and bloody step he takes, is ascribed to some 
amiable weakness, or some noble impulse, deserving our sym- 
pathy and admiration. 

And what fruits do these eccentric geniuses bring us from 
their wilderness of horrours? They seduce us into a perni- 
cious belief that feeling and duty are irreconcilable ; and thus 
they hypothetically suspend Providence, to necessitate and 
sanction crime. 



Our poetry in the eighteenth century was prose ; our prose 
in the seventeenth, poetry. 



Taste appreciates pictures : connoisseurship appraises 
them. T. 



We are always saying with anger or wonder, that such and 
such a work of genius is unpopular. Yet how can it be other- 
wise ? Surely it would be a contradiction, were the most ex- 
traordinary books in a language the commonest; at least till 
they have been made so by fashion, which, to say nothing of its 
capriciousness, is oligarchal. 

Are you surprised that our friend Matthew has married such 
a woman ? and surprised too, because he is a man of genius ? 
That is the very reason of his doing it. To be sure she came 
to him without a shift to her back : but his genius is rich 
enough to deck her out in purple and fine linen. So long as 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



these last, all will go on comfortably. But when they are 
worn out and the stock exhausted, alas poor wife ! shall I say ? 
or alas poor Matthew ! 

Jealousy is said to be the offspring of Love. Yet, unless 
the parent makes haste to strangle the child, the child will not 
rest till it has poisoned the parent. a. 



Man has. 

First, animal appetites ; and hence animal impulses. 

Secondly, moral cravings; either unregulated by reason, 
which are passions ; or regulated and controlled by it, which 
are feelings : hence moral impulses. 

Thirdly, the power of weighing probabilities ; and hence 
prudence. 

Fourthly, the vis logica, evolving consequences from axioms, 
necessary deductions from certain principles, whether they be 
mathematical, as in the theorems of geometrj;, or moral, as of 
Duty from the idea of God : hence Conscience, at once the 
voice of Duty speaking to the soul, and the ear with which the 
soul hears the commands of Duty. 

This idea, the idea of God, is, beyond all question or com- 
parison, the one great seminal principle ; inasmuch as it com- 
bines and comprehends all the faculties of our nature, converg- 
ing in it as their common centre, — brings the reason to sanction 
the aspirations of the imagination, — impregnates law with the 
vitality and attractiveness of the affections, — and establishes 
the natural, legitimate subordination of the body to the will, 
and of both to the vis logica or reason, by involving the neces- 
sary and entire dependence of the created on the Creator. But, 
although this idea is the end and the beginning, the ocean and 
the fountain-head of all duty, yet are there many contributory 
streams of principle, to which men in all ages have been con- 
tent to trust themselves. Such are the disposition to do good 
for its own sake, patriotism, that earthly religion of the ancients, 
obedience to law, reverence for parents. 

A few con-oborative observations may be added. 



150 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



First : passion is refined into feeling by being brought under 
the controll of reason ; in other words, by being in some degree 
tempered with the idea of duty. 

Secondly : a deliberate impulse appears to be a contradiction 
in terms : yet its existence must be admitted, if we deny the 
existence of principles. For there are actions on record, which, 
although the results of predetermination, possest all the self-sac- 
rifice of a momentary impulse. The conduct of Manlius when 
challenged by the Gaul, contrasted with that of his son on a 
like occasion, strikingly illustrates the difference between prin- 
ciple and impulse : of which difference moreover, to the unques- 
tionable exclusion of prudence, the premeditated self-devotion 
of Decius furnishes another instance. 

Thirdly : the mind, when allowed its full and free play, 
prefers moral good, however faintly, to moral evil. Hence the 
old confession. Video meliora, i^rohoque : and hence are we so 
much better judges in another's case than our own. In like 
manner the philosophic Apostle demonstrates the existence of 
the law written in our hearts, from the testimony borne by the 
conscience to our own deeds, and the sentence of acquittal or 
condemnation which we pass on each other. And although 
this preference for good may in most cases be so weak, as to 
require the subsidiary support of promises and threats, yet the 
auxiliary enactment is not to be confounded with the primary 
principle. For, in the Divine Law certainly, and, I believe, in 
Human Law also, where it is not the arbitrary decree of igno- 
rance or injustice, the necessity and consequent obligation to 
obedience must have existed, at least potentially, from all eter- 
nity ; Law being an exposition, and not an origination of Duty: 
while punishment, a thing in its very nature variable, is a sub- 
sequent appendage, "because of transgressions." Even the 
approval of conscience, although coincident with the performance 
of the act approved, must be as distinct from it as effect from 
cause ; not to insist on that approval's not being confined to 
duty in its highest sense, but being extended on fitting occasions 
both to moral impulses and to prudence. 

Fourthly : there are classes of words, such as generous and 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



151 



base, good and had, rigid and wrong, which belong to the moral 
feelings and principles contended for, and which have no mean- 
ing without them : and their existence, not merely in the writ- 
ings of philosophers, but in the mouths of the commonalty, 
should perhaps be deemed enough to establish the facts, of 
which they profess to be the expressions and exponents. Suix3- 
ly the trite principle, Ex nihilo nihil fit, is applicable here also, 
and may for once be enlisted in the service of the good cause. 
But besides, the existence of Duty, as in itself an ultimate and 
satisfactory end, is notoriously a favorite topic with great ora- 
tors ; who can only be great, because their more vivid sensibihty 
gives them a deeper practical insight into the springs and work- 
ings of the human heart ; and who, it is equally certain, would 
not even be considered great, were their views of humanity 
altogether and fundamentally untrue. Without going back to 
Demosthenes, the most eloquent writers of our days have dis- 
tinguisht themselves by attacks on the selfish system. 

To the same purpose is the epitaph on Leonidas and his 
Spartans : They fell in obedience to the laws. Were not obedi- 
ence a duty in itself, without any reference to a penalty, this 
famous epitaph would dwindle into an unintelligible synonym for 
They died to escape whipping. On the other hand, were not 
such obedience possible, the epitaph would be rank nonsense. 

The fact is, if the doctrines of the selfish philosophers, — as 
I must call them, in compliance with usage, and for lack of a 
more appropriate name, though they themselves, were they con- 
sistent, would shrink from the imputation of anything so fan- 
tastical and irrational as the love of wisdom, and would rather 
be styled systematic self-seekers, — if, I say, their doctrines are 
true, every book that was ever written, in whatsoever language, 
on whatsoever subject, and of whatsoever kind, unless it be a 
mere table of logarithms, ought forthwith to be written afresh. 
For in their present state they are all the spawn of falsehood 
cast upon the waters of nonsense. Great need verily is there 
that this school of exenterated rulemongers and eviscerated 
logicians should set about rewriting every book, ay, even their 



152 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



own. For, whatever they may have thought, they have been 
fain to speak like the rest of the world, with the single excep- 
tion of Mr Bentham ; who, discerning the impossibility of 
giving vent to his doctrines in any language hitherto spoken by 
man, has with his peculiar judgement coined a new gibberish 
of his own for his private circulation. Yet one might wager 
one should not read many pages, before even he would be 
caught tripping. 

Clumsy as this procedure may be, it is at all events honester 
and more straightforward than the course adopted by Hobbes ; 
who, instead of issuing new tokens, such as everybody might 
recognize to be his, chose to retain the terms in common use, 
stamping their impress however on the base metal of his own 
brain, and trying to palm this off as the king's English. If any 
one wishes to see the absolute incompatibility of the selfish 
doctrines with the universal feelings of mankind, let him read 
the eighth and ninth chapters of Hobbeses Human Nature, 
and remark how audaciously he perverts and distorts the words 
he pretends to explain, as the only means of keeping them from 
giving the lie to his system. It is curious, to what shifts a man, 
who is often a clear thinker, and mostly writes with precision, 
is compelled to resort, w^hen, having mounted the great horse of 
philosophy with his face tailward, he sets off on this a posteriori 
course, shouting, Look! Jioiv fast I am getting on! It is true, 
instead of coming to meet me, everything seems to he running 
away: hut this is only hecause I have emancipated myself from 
the hondage of gravitation, and can distinguish the motion of the 
earth as it rolls under me ; while all other men are swept hlindhj 
along ivith it. 

When one looks merely at the style of Hobbes, and at that 
of Mr Bentham's later works, it is not easy to conceive two 
writers more different. Yet they have much in common. Both 
have the same shrewdness of practical observation, the same 
clearness of view, so far as the spectacles they have chosen to 
put on allow them to see, — the same fondness for stringing 
everything on a single principle. Both have the same arrogant, 
overweening, contemptuous self-conceit. Both look with the- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



153 



same vulgar scorn on all the wisdom of former times, and of 
their own. Both deem they have a monopoly of all truth, and 
that whatever is not of their own manufacture is contraband. 
Both too seem to have been men of regular moral habits, 
having naturally cold and calm temperaments, undisturbed by 
lively affections, unruffled by emotions, with no strong feelings 
except such as were kindled or fanned by self-love. Thus they 
both reacht a great age, exemplifying their systems, so far as 
this is possible, in their own lives ; and they only drew from 
themselves, while they fancied they were representing human 
nature. 

In knowledge indeed, especially in the variety of his infor- 
mation, Mr Bentham was far superior to the sophist of Malms- 
bury ; although what made him so confident in his knowledge, 
was that it was only half-knowledge. He wanted the higher 
Socratic half, the knowledge of his own ignorance. Hobbes, it 
is said, was wont to make it a boast, that he had read so little ; 
for that, if he had read as much as other men, he should have 
been as ignorant. What his ignorance in that case might have 
been, we cannot judge ; but it could not well have been grosser 
than what he is perpetually displaying. To appreciate the 
arrogance of his boast, we must remember that he was the 
friend of Selden ; who, while his learning embraced the whole 
field of knowledge, was no way infex'ior to Hobbes in the 
vigour of his practical understanding, and in sound, sterling, 
desophisticating sense was far superior to him. 

As to the difference in style between the two chiefs of the 
selfish school, it answers to that in their political opinions. For 
a creed, which acknowledges no principles beyond the figments 
of the understanding, may accommodate itself to any form of 
government ; not merely submitting to it, as Christianity does, 
for conscience sake, but setting it up as excellent in itself, and 
worshiping it. Accordingly we find them diverging into op- 
posite extremes. While Hobbes bowed to the ground before 
the idol of absolute monarchy, his successor's leanings were all 
in favour of democracy. The former, caring only about quiet, 
and the being able to pursue his studies undisturbed, wisht to 
7* 



154 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



leave everything as it was ; and thus in style too conformed, so 
far as his doctrines allowed, to common usage. Mr Bentham on 
the other hand, as he ever rejoiced to see society resolving into 
its elements, seemed desirous to throw back language also into a 
chaotic state. Unable to understand organic unity and growth, 
he lookt upon a hyphen as the one bond of union. u. 

By a happy contradiction, no system of philosophy gives 
such a base view of human nature, as that which is founded 
on self-love. So sure is self-love to degrade whatever it 
touches. V. 



There have indeed been minds overlaid by much reading, 
men wlio have piled such a load of books on their heads, their 
brains have seemed to be squasht by them. This however was 
not the character of the learned men in the age of Hobbes. 
Though they did not all rise to a commanding highth above the 
whole expanse of knowledge, like Scaliger, or like Niebuhr in 
our times, so as to survey it at once with a mighty, darting 
glance, discerning the proportions and bearings of all its parts ; 
yet the scholars of those days had no slight advantages, on the 
one hand in the comparative narrowness and unity of the field 
of knowledge, and on the other hand in the labour then re- 
quired to traverse it ; above all, in the discipline of a positiv" 
education, and in having determinate principles, according to 
which every fresh accession of information was to be judged 
and disposed of. Their principles may have been mixt u 
with a good deal of errour ; but at all events they were not a 
the mercy of the winds, to veer round and round with every 
blast. Their knowledge too was to be drawn, not at second o 
third or tenth hand, from abstracts and abridgements, and com 
pilations and compendiums, and tables of contents and indexes 
but straight from the original sources. Hence they had 
firmer footing. They often knew not how to make a right us 
of their knowledge, and lackt critical discrimination : but fe 
of them felt their learning an incumbrance, or were disabled b 
it for walking steadily. Thus even in their scantiness of mean 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



155 



there were advantages ; just as, according to the great law of 
compensation, riches of every kind have their disadvantages. 
That which we acquire laboriously, by straining all our faculties 
to win it, is more our own, and braces our minds more. Even in 
Melanchthon's time this was felt, and that the greater facilities 
in obtiiining books were not purely beneficial. The exercise of 
transcribing the ancient writers, he tells his pupils ( Oper. iii. 
378), had its good. " Demosthenes fertur octies descripsisse 
Thucydidem. Ego ipse Pauli Epistolam ad Romanos Grae- 
cam ter descripsi. Ac memini me ex Capnione audire, quon- 
dam eo solidius fuisse doctos homines, quia certos auctores, et 
in quahbet arte praecipuos, cum manu sua singuli describerent, 
penitus ediscebant. Nunc distrahi studia, nec immorari ingenia 
eertis auctoribus, vel scribendo, vel legendo." It is true, there 
is an aptness to exaggerate the evils of improvements, as well 
as the benefits ; and a man may be great in spite of his riches, 
even as he may enter into the Kingdom of Heaven in spite of 
them. But great men are such by an inward power, not 
through outward means, and may be all the greater for the 
want of those means. 

Yet on the other hand in Bacon himself one may perceive 
that many of the flaws, which here and there disfigure his 
writings, would have vanisht if he had entertained less dispar- 
aging notions of his predecessors, and not allowed himself to 
be dazzled by the ambition of being in all things the reformer 
of philosophy. Even if learning were mere ballast, a large and 
stout ship will bear a heavy load of it, and sail all the better. 
But a wise man will make use of his predecessors as rowers, 
who will waft him along far more rapidly and safely, and over 
a far wider range of waters, than he could cross in any skiff of 
his own. Adopting Bacon's image, that we see beyond anti- 
quity, from standing upon it, at all events we must take up our 
stand there, and not kick it from under us : else we ourselves 
fall along with it. True wisdom is always catholic, even when 
protesting the most loudly and strongly. It knows that the real 
stars are those which move on calmly and peacefully in the 
midst of their heavenly brotherhood. Those which rush out 



156 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



from thence, and disdain communion with them, are no stars, 
but fleeting, perishable meteors. 

Even in poetry, he would be a bold man who would assert 
that Milton's learning impaired his genius. At times it may be 
obtrusive ; but it more than makes amends for this at other 
times. Or would Virgil, would Horace, would Gray, have 
been greater poets, had they been less familiar with those who 
went before them ? For this is the real question. They must 
be compared with themselves, not with other poets more richly 
gifted by Nature. 

Desultory reading is indeed very mischievous, by fostering 
habits of loose, discontinuous thought, by turning the memory 
into a common sewer for rubbish of all sorts to float through, 
and by relaxing the power of attention, which of all our fac- 
ulties most needs care, and is most improved by it. But a 
well-regulated course of study will no more weaken the mind, 
than hard exercise will weaken the body: nor will a strong 
understanding be weighed down by its knowledge, any more 
than an oak is by its leaves, or than Samson was by his locks. 
He whose sinews are drained by his hair, must already be a 
weakling. u. 

We may keep the devil without the swine, but not the swine 
without the devil. 



The Christian religion may be lookt upon under a twofold 
aspect, — as revealing and declaring a few mysterious doctrines, 
beyond the grasp and reach of our reason, — and as confirming 
and establishing a number of moral truths, which, from their 
near and evident connexion with our social wants, might enter 
into a scheme of religion, such as a human legislator would 
devise. 

The Divine origin of any system confining itself to truths of 
the latter kind would be liable to strong suspicions. For what 
a mere man is capable of deducing, will not rise high enough 
to have flowed down from heaven. On the other hand a sys- 
tem composed wholly of abstruse doctrines, however it miglit 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



157 



feed the wonder of the vulgar, could never have been the gift 
of God. A Being who knows the extent of our wants, and the 
violence of our passions, — all whose ordinary dispensations 
moreover are fraught with usefulness, and stampt with love, — 
such a Being, our Maker, could never have sent us an unfruit- 
ful revelation of strange truths, which left men in the condition 
it found them in, as selfish, as hardhearted, as voluptuous. Ac- 
cordingly, as Dr. Whately has shewn in his Essays on some 
Peculiarities of the Christian Religion, the practical character 
of a Revelation, and its abstaining from questions of mere curi- 
osity, is an essential condition, or at least a very probable mark 
of its truth. 

Christianity answers the anticipations of Philosophy in both 
these important respects. Its precepts are holy and impera- 
tive ; its mysteries vast, undiscoverable, unimaginable ; and, 
what is still worthier of consideration, these two limbs of our 
Religion are not severed, or even laxly joined, but, after the 
workmanship of the God of Nature, so " lock in with and over- 
wrap one another," that they cannot be torn asunder Avithout 
rude force. Every mystery is the germ of a duty : every duty 
has its motive in a mystery. So that, if I may speak of these 
things in the symbolical language of ancient wisdom, — every- 
thing divine being circular, every right thing human straight, — 
the life of the Christian may be compared to a chord, each end 
of which is supported by the arc it proceeds from and termi- 
nates in. 

Were not the mysteries of antiquity, in their practical effect, 
a sort of religious peerage, to embrace and absorb those persons 
whose enquiries might endanger the establisht belief? If so, it 
is a strong presumption in favour of Christianity, that it con- 
tains none ; especially as it borrows no aid from castes. 

A use must have preceded an abuse, properly so called. 

Nobody has ever been able to change today into tomorrow, 
— or into yesterday ; and yet everybody, who has much energy 
of character, is trying to do one or the other. u. 



158 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



I could hardly feel much confidence in a man who had never 
been imposed upon. u. 

There are instances, a physician has told me, of persons, who, 
having been crowded with others in prisons so ill ventilated as 
to breed an infectious fever, have yet escaped it, from the grad- 
ual adaptation of their constitutions to the noxious atmosphere 
they had generated. This avoids the inference so often drawn, 
as to the harmlessness of mischievous doctrines, from the inno- 
cent lives of the men with whom they originated. To form a 
correct judgement concerning the tendency of any doctrine, we 
should rather look at the fruit it bears in the disciples, than in 
the teacher. For he only made it ; they are made by it. 

La pohreza no es vileza, Poverty is no disgrace, says the Bis- 
cayan proverb. Paupertas ridiculos homines facit, says the 
Roman satirist. Is there an Englishman, who, being askt 
which is the wiser and better saying, would not instantly an- 
swer. The firsts Yet how many are there, who half an hour 
after would not quiz a poor gentleman's coat or dinner, if the 
thought of it came across them? Be consistent, for shame, 
even in evil. But no ! still be inconsistent ; that your practice, 
thus glaringly at variance with your principle, may sooner fall 
to the ground. 



Who ivants to see a masquerade ? might be written under a 
looking-glass. t:. 

Languages are the barometers of national thought and char- 
acter. Home Tooke, in attempting to fix the quicksilver for 
his own metaphysical ends, acted much like a little playfellow 
of mine, at the first school I was at, who screwed the master's 
weatherglass up to fair, to make sure of a fine day for a holiday. 

Every age has a language of its own ; and the difference in 
the words is often far greater than in the thoughts. The main 
employment of authors, in their collective capacity, is to trans- 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



159 



late the thoughts of other ages into the language of their own. 
Nor is this a useless or unimportant task : for it is the only way 
of making knowledge either fruitful or powerful. 



Reviewers are forever telling authors, they can't understand 
them. The author might often reply : Is that my fault ? u. 

The climate might perhaps have absorbed the intellect of 
Greece, instead of tempering it to a love of beauty, but for the 
awakening and stirring excitements of a national poem, bar- 
baric wars, a confined territory, republican institutions and the 
activity they generate, the absence of any recluse profession, 
and a form of worship in wdiich art predominated. The poets 
of such a people would naturally be lyrical. But at Athens 
Homer, the Dionysiacs, and Pericles, by their united influence, 
fostered them into dramatists. The glories of their country in- 
spired them with enthusiastic patriotism ; and an aristocratical 
religion (w^hich, until it w^as supplanted by a vulgar philosophy, 
was revered, in spite of all its errours,) gave them depth, and 
made them solemn at least, if not sublime. Energy they owed 
to their contests, and correctness to the practist ears of their 
audience. 

On the other hand, the centurion's rod, the forum, the con- 
sulate, Hannibal, and in later times the Civil Wars, — pride, 
and the suppression of feehng taught by pride, — Epicureanism, 
which dwarft Lucretius, though it could not stifle him, — the 
overwhelming perfection of the great Greek models, and the 
benumbing frost of a jealous despotism, — would not allow 
the Romans, except at rare intervals, to be poets. Perhaps 
the greatest in their language is Livy. 

Such at least must be the opinion of the author of Gebir, 
whose writings are more deeply impregnated, than those of any 
Englishman of our times, with the spirit of classical antiquity. 
In a note on that singular poem, he goes so far as to compare 
Livy with Shakspeare, and in one respect gives the advantage 
to the Roman. " Shakspeare (he says) is the only writer that 
ever knew so intimately, or ever described so accurately, the 



160 GUESSES AT TEUTH. 



variations of the human character. But Livy is always great." 
The same too must have been the opinion of the great historian, 
who seemed to have been raised up, after a lapse of eighteen 
centuries, to revive the glories of ancient Rome, and to teach 
us far more about the Romans, than they ever knew about 
themselves. Niebuhr agrees with Landor in praising Livy^s 
brilHant talent for the representation of human character ; while 
in another place he justly complains of Virgil's inability to 
infuse life into the shadowy names with which he has swelled 
the muster-roll of his poem. 



South's sentences are gems, hard and shining : Voltau-e's look 
like them, but are only French paste. 

Kant extends this contrast to the two nations, in his Essay 
on the Sublime and Beautiful, where he says, § 4, "In England 
profound thoughts are native, — tragedy, epio poetry, and the 
massive gold of wit ; which is beat out by a French hammer 
into thin leaves of a great superficies." 



Some men so dislike the dust kickt up by the generation 
they belong to, that, being unable to pass, they lag behind it. 



Half the failures in life arise from pulling in one's horse as 
he is leaping. u. 

How much better the world would go on, if people could but 
do now and then, what Lord Castlereagh used to deprecate, 
and turn their backs upon themselves ! u. 



The most mischievous liars are those who keep sliding on 
the verfve of truth. u. 



Hardly anything is so difficult in writing, as to wite with 
ease. u. 



Contrast is a kind of relation. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



IGl 



Instead of watching the bird as it flies above our heads, we 
chase his shadow along the ground; and finding we cannot 
grasp it, we conclude it to be nothing. 

There is something odd in the disposition of an Englishman's 
senses. He sees with his fingers, and hears with his toes. En- 
ter a gallery of pictures : you find all the spectators longing to 
become handlers. Go to hear an opera of Mozart's : your next 
neighbour keeps all the while kicking time ... as if he could 
not kill it without. u. 



Excessive indulgence to others, especially to children, is in 
fact only self-indulgence under an alias. u. 

Poverty breeds wealth ; and wealth in its turn breeds pov- 
erty. The earth, to form the mound, is taken out of the ditch ; 
and whatever may be the highth of the one, will be the depth 
of the other. 



Pliny speaks of certain animals that will fatten on smoke. 
How lucky would it be for sundry eloquent statesmen, if they 
could get men to do so ! u. 



The great cry with everybody is, Get on ! get on ! just as 
if the world were travelling post. How astonisht people will 
be, when they arrive in heaven, to find the angels, who are 
so much wiser, laying no schemes to be made archangels ! 

Is not every true lover a martyr ? tr. 

XJnitarianism has no root in the permanent principles of 
human nature. In fact it is a religion of accidents, depending 
for its reception on a particular turn of thought, a particular 
state of knowledge, and a particular situation in society. This 
alone is a sufiicient disproof of it. 

But moreover its postulates involve the absurdity of coupling 
infinity with man. No wonder that, beginning with raising him 

K 



162 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



into a god, it has ended with degrading him into a beast. In 
attempting to erect a Babel on a foundation of a foot square, 
the Socinians constructed a building which, being top-heavy, 
overturned ; and its bricks, instead of stopping at the ground, 
struck into it from the violence of the fall. 



Calvinism is not imaginative. To stand therefore, it should 
in some degree be scientific : whereas no system of Christianity 
presents greater ditiiculties to the understanding, none so great 
to the moral sense. Heavy as these ditficulties are, the unbend- 
ing faith of the Swiss Reformer would have borne up under 
still heavier. But after a few generations, when zeal subsides, 
such a weight is found to be inconvenient ; and men loosen the 
articles which press the hardest, until they slip off one after 
another. Scepticism however, like other things, is enlarged 
and pampered by indulgence : as the current gets more 
sluggish, the water gets thicker: and the dregs of Calvinism 
stagnate into Socinianism. 

A Christian is God Almighty's gentleman : a gentleman, in 
the vulgar, superficial way of understanding the word, is the 
Devil's Christian. But to throw aside these polisht and too 
current counterfeits for something valuable and sterling, the 
real gentleman should be gentle in everything, at least in every- 
thing that depends on himself, — in carriage, temper, construc- 
tions, aims, desires. He ought therefore to be mild, calm, quiet, 
even, temperate, — not hasty in judgement, not exorbitant in 
ambition, not overbearing, not proud, not rapacious, not oppres- 
sive ; for these things are contrary to gentleness. Many such 
gentlemen are to be found, I trust ; and many more would be, 
were the true meaning of the name borne in mind and duly 
inculcated. But alas! we are misled by etymology; and be- 
cause a gentleman was originally homo gentilis, people seem to 
fancy they shall lose caste, unless they act as Gentiles. 

To no kind of begging are people so averse, as to begging 
pardon ; that is, when there is any serious ground for doing so. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



163 



"When there is none, this phrase is as soon taken in vain, as 
other momentous words are upon light occasions. On the other 
hand there is a kind of begging which everybody is forward 
enough at; and that is, begging the question. Yet surely a 
gentleman should be as ready to do the former, as a reasona- 
ble man should be loth to do the latter. u. 



"What a proof it is that the carnal heart is enmity, to find 
that almost all our prejudices are against others ! so much so 
indeed, that this has become an integral part of the word : 
whatever is to a man's prejudice, is to his hurt. Nay, I have 
sometimes found it hard to convince a person, that it is possible 
to have a prejudice in favor of another. It is only Christian 
love, that can believe all things, and hope all things, even of 
our fellow-creatures. 

But is there not a strange contradiction here ? The carnal 
heart, which thinks so basely of its neighbours, thinks haugh- 
tily of itself: while the Christian, who knows and feels the evil 
of his own nature, can yet look for good in his neighbours. 
How is this to be solved ? 

Why, it is only when blinded by selflove, that we can think 
proudly of our nature. Take away that blind; and in our 
judgements of others we are quicksighted enough to see there 
is very little in that nature to rely on. Whereas, the Christian 
can hope all things ; because he grounds his hope, not on man, 
but on God, and trusts that the same power which has wrought 
good in him, will also work good in his neighbour. u. 

Temporary madness may perhaps be necessary in some cases, 
to cleanse and renovate the mind; just as a fit of illness is to 
carry off the humours of the body. 

A portrait has one advantage over its original : it is uncon- 
scious : and so you may admire, without insulting it. I have 
seen portraits which have more. u. 



A compliment is usually accompanied with a bow, as if to 
beg pardon for paying it. a. 



164 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Thought is the wind, knowledge the sail, and mankind the 
vessel. 

Children always turn toward the light. O that grown-up 
people in this would become like little children. u. 



Civilization takes the heart, and sticks it beside the head, 
just where Spurzheim finds the organ of acquisitiveness. No 
wonder she fancies she has elevated man altogether, since she 
has thus raised the most valuable part of him, and at the same 
time has thus enlarged the hiorhest. 



Men have often been warned against old prejudices : I 
would rather warn them against new conceits. The novelty 
of an opinion on any moral question is a presumption against 
it. Generally speaking, it is only the half-thinker, who, in 
matters concerning the feelings and ancestral opinions of men, 
stumbles on new conclusions. The true philosopher searches 
out something else, — the propriety of the feeling, the wisdom 
of the opinion, the deep and living roots of whatever is fair 
or enduring. For on such points, to use a happy phrase of 
Dugald Stewart's {Philosophy of the Human Mind, ii. 75), 
"our first and third thoughts will be found to coincide." 

Burke was a fine specimen of a third-thoughted man. So 
in our own times, consciously and professedly, was Coleridge ; 
who delighted in nothing more than in the revival of a dor- 
mant truth, and who ever lookt over the level of the present 
age to the hills containing the sources and springs Avhereby that 
level is watered. Let me cite an instance of what I mean from 
the life of Jeremy Taylor, by . . the title has, Reginald Heber. 
So let me call him then. I only anticipate the affectionate 
familiarity of future ages, in whose ears (as a friend of mine 
well prophesies) the Bishop of Calcutta will sound as strange, 
as the Bishop of Down and Connor would in ours. The pas- 
sage I refer to is a defense of the good old institution of sizars, 
or poor scholars. Its length prevents my quoting it entire ; but 
I cannot forbear enriching my pages with some of the conclud- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



1G5 



ing sentences. " It is easy to declaim against the indecorum 
and illiberality of depressing the poorer students into servants. 
But it would be more candid, and more consistent with truth, 
to say that our ancestors elevated their servants to the rank of 
students ; softening, as much as possible, every invidious dis- 
tinction, and rendering the convenience of the wealthy the 
means of extending the benefits of education to those whose 
poverty must otherwise have shut them out from the springs of 
knowledge. And the very distinction of dress, which has so 
often been complained of, the very nature of those duties, which 
have been esteemed degrading, were of use in preventing the 
intrusion of the higher classes into situations intended only for 
the benefit of the poor ; while, by separating the last from the 
familiar society of the wealthier students, they prevented that 
dangerous emulation of expense, which in more modern times 
has almost excluded them from the University." (p. ix.) * 

Was it superfluous to quote a passage, which my readers 
were already acquainted with ? I rejoice to hear it ; and wish 
I could believe they had as good cause for objecting to the fol- 
lowing extract from Coleridge's Literary Biography (ii. p. 60), 
containing a similar apology for a practice dictated by natural 
feelings, but which has often been severely condemned. " It is 
no less an errour in teachers, than a torment to the poor chil- 
dren, to enforce the necessity of reading as they would talk. 
In order to cure them of singing, as it is called, — the child is 
made to repeat the words with his eyes from off the book ; and 
then indeed his tones resemble talking, as far as his fears, tears, 

* The foregoing page was just printed off, when the news came that India 
had lost its good Bishop. At the time when I ventured on that passing men- 
tion of him, I was little distm'bed by the thought of its inadequateness ; know- 
ing that it would not offend him, if the passage ever chanced to meet his eye. 
He would have deemed himself beholden to the meanest stranger for an offer- 
ing of honest admiration, and, I doubted not, would accept my tribute of gi'at- 
itude and affection with his wonted gentleness. And now . . . now that he 
has been taken from us . . . why should I not declare the truth ? Though I 

i should have rejoiced to speak of him worthily, if God had given me the 
power to speak worthily of such a man, yet, being what I am, that I have 

I said no more does not pain me . . . pei'haps because my heart seems to say, 

I that love and sorrow make all gifts equal. 



16G 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



and trembling will permit. But as soon as the eye is again 
directed to the printed page, the spell begins anew : for an in- 
stinctive sense tells the child, that to utter its own momentary 
thoughts, and to recite the written thoughts of another, as of 
another, and a far wiser than himself, are two widely different 
things ; and as the two acts are accompanied with widely differ- 
ent feelings, so must they justify different modes of enuncia- 
tion." 

My introductory remarks however, I scarcely need add, apply 
to ends only, not to means. For means are variable ; ends con- 
tinue the same. The road from London to Edinburgh may be 
improved; horses may become swifter, carriages lighter: but 
Edinburgh seems likely to stay pretty nearly in the same spot 
where it is now. 



The next best thing to a very good joke, is a very bad joke: 
the next best thing to a very good argument, is a very bad one. 
In wit and reasoning, as in the streets of Paris, you must be- 
ware of the old maxim, medio tutissimus ibis. In that city it 
would lead you into the gutter: in your intellectual march it 
would sink you in the dry, sandy wastes of dulness. But the 
selfsame result, which a good joke or a good argument accom- 
plishes regularly and according to law, is now and then reacht 
by their misshapen brethren per saltum, as a piece of luck. 

Few trains of logic, however ingenious and fine, have given 
me so much pleasure, — and yet a good argument is among 
dainties one of the daintiest, — few, very few, have so much 
pure truth in them, as the exclamation, Ifow good it was of God 
to put Sunday at one end of the week ! for, if He had put it in 
the middle, He would have made a broken week of it. The feel- 
ing here is so true and strong, as to overpower all perception of 
the rugged way along which it carries us. It gains its point; 
and that is all it cares for. It knows nothing of doubt or faint- 
heartedness, but goes to work much like our sailors : everybody, 
who does not know them, swears they must fail ; yet they are 
sure to succeed. He who is animated with such a never hesi- 
tating, never questioning conviction that every ordinance of 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



167 



God is for good, although he may miss the actual good in the 
particular instance, cannot go far wrong in the end. 

There is a speech of a like character related in Mr. Turner's 
Tour in Normandy (i. p. 120). He entered one day into con- 
versation with a Frenchman of the lower orders, a religious 
man, whom he found praying before a broken cross. They 
were sitting in a ruined chapel. " The devotee mourned over 
its destruction, and over the state of the times which could 
countenance such impiety; and gradually, as he turned over 
the leaves of the prayer-book in his hand, he was led to read 
aloud the 137th Psalm, commenting on every verse as he pro- 
ceeded, and weeping more and more bitterly, when he came to 
the part commemorating the ruin of Jerusalem, which he ap- 
plied to the captive state of France, exclaiming against Prussia 
as cruel Babylon. Yet^ we askt, how can you reconcile with 
the spirit of Christianity the permission given to the Jews hy the 
Psalmist to take up her little ones and dash them against the 
stones'^ — Ah! you misunderstand the sense; the Psalm does 
not authorize cruelty: mais, attendez! ce n' est pas ainsi: ces 
pierres-la so?it Saint Pierre ; et heureux celui qui les attachera 
a Saint Pierre ; qui montrera de Vattachement, de Vintrepidite 
pour sa religion! This is a specimen of the curious perver- 
sions under which the Roman Cathohc faith does not scruple to 
take refuge." 

" Surely in other thoughts Contempt might die." The ques- 
tion was at best very thoughtless and illjudged : its purpose was 
to unsettle the poor man's faith: it offered no solution of the 
doubts it suggested : and no judicious person will so address the 
uneducated. But it is cheering to see how the Frenchman 
takes up the futile shaft, and tosses it back again, and finds 
nothing but an occasion to shew the entireness of his faith. 
Moreover, though Mr. Turner hardly thought it, there is much 
more truth in the reply than in the question. All that there is 
in the latter, is one of those half truths, which, by setting up 
alone, bankrupt themselves, and become falsehoods ; while the 
Frenchman begins in truth, and ends in truth, taking a some- 
what strange course indeed to get from one point to the other. 



168 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



Still in him we perceive, though in a low and rude state, that 
wisdom of the heart, that esprit du cceur or mens cordis, which 
the Broad Stone of Honour inculcates so eloquently and so fer- 
vently, and which, if it be severed from the wisdom of the 
head, is far the more precious of the two ; while in their union 
it is like the odour which in some indescribable way mingles 
with the hues of the flower, softening its beauty into loveliness. 
No truly wise man has ever been without it : but in few has it 
ever been found in such purity and perfection, as in the author 
of that noble manual for gentlemen, that volume which, had I 
a son, I would place in his hands, charging him, though such 
prompting would be needless, to love it next to his Bible. 
1826. u. 



These words, written eleven years ago, were an expression 
of ardent and affectionate admiration for a book, which seemed 
to me fitted, above almost all others, to inspire young minds 
with the feelings befitting a Christian gentleman. They refer 
to the second edition of tJie Broad Stone of Honour, which 
came out in 1823. Since that time the author has publisht 
another edition, or rather another work under the same title ; 
for but a small portion of the new one is taken from the old. 
To this new one, I regret to say, I cannot apply the same terms. 
Not that it is inferior to the former in its peculiar excellences. 
On the contrary the author's style, both in language and 
thought, has become more mature, and still more beautiful: 
his reading has been continually widening its range ; and he 
pours forth its precious stores still more prodigally: and the 
rehgious spirit, which pervaded the former work, hallows every 
page of the latter. The new Broad Stone is still richer than 
the old one in magnanimous and holy thoughts, and in tales of 
honour and of piety. If one sometimes thinks that the author 
loses himself amid the throng of knightly and saintly person- 
ages, whom he calls up before us, it is with the feeling with 
which Milton must have regarded the moon, when he likened 
her to "one that had been led astray Through the heaven's 
wide, pathless way." If he strays, it is " through the heaven's 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



1G9 



wide, pathless way ; " if he loses himself, it is among the stars. 
In truth this is an essential, and a very remarkable feature of 
his catholic spirit. He identifies himself, as few have ever 
done, with the good, and great, and heroic, and holy, in former 
times, and ever rejoices in passing out of himself into them : he 
loves to utter his thoughts and feelings in their words, rather 
than his own : and the saints and philosophers and warriors of 
old join in swelhng the sacred consort which rises heavenward 
from his pages. 

Nevertheless the new Broad Stone of Honour is not a book 
which can be recommended without hesitation to the young. 
The very charm, which it is sure to exercise over them, hight- 
ens one's scruples about doing so. For in it the author has 
come forward a^ a convert and champion of the Romish 
Church, and as the implacable enemy of Protestantism. This 
polemical spirit is the one great blemish which disfigures this, 
and still more his later work, the Ages of Faith. The object 
he sets himself is, to shew that all good, and hardly anything 
but good, is to be found in the bosom of the Romish Church ; 
and that all evil, and hardly anything but evil, is the growth of 
Protestantism. These propositions he maintains by what in any 
other writer one should call a twofold sophism. But Achilles 
himself was not more incapable of sophistry, than the author of 
the Broad Stone of Honour. No word ever dropt from his pen, 
which he did not thoroughly believe ; difficult as to us double- 
minded men it may seem at times to conceive this. Therefore, 
instead of a twofold sophism, I will call it a twofold delusion, a 
twofold Einseitigkeit, as the more appropriate German word is. 
He culls the choicest and noblest stories out of fifteen centuries, 
— and not merely out of history, but out of poetry and ro- 
mance, — and the purest and sublimest morsels of the great 
religious writers between the time of the Apostles and the 
Reformation : and this magnificent spiritual hierarchy he sets 
before us as a living and trustworthy picture of what the Ages 
of Faith, as he terms them, actually were. On the other hand, 
shutting his eyes to what is great and holy in later times, he 
picks out divers indications of baseness, unbelief, pusillanimity, 
8 



170 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



and worldlymindedness, as portraying what Europe has become, 
owing to the dissolution of the unity of the Church. Thus, in 
speaking of the worthies of the Reformed Churches, he himself 
not seldom falls into the same strain, which he most justly 
reprehends in the ordinary Protestant accounts of the middle 
ages. 

Alas ! whithersoever one looks throughout Christendom, 

'4v6^ uvefjioi TTveiovcri 8vo KpaTeprjs vtt' dvdyKrjs, 
Koi TVTTOS dvTiTvnos, Koi TTTjp,^ cVi TTrjfiaTL Ke^rai. 
But it grieves one to the heart to see those blowing the bellows, 
who ought to be extinguishing the flame. For, though wrath is 
denounced against those who cry Peace, Peace ! when there is 
no peace, — against those who would patch up the rent in the 
Church by daubing it over with untempered mortar, who think 
that indifference to all principle is the best cement of union, and 
that to let the bricks lie at sixes and sevens is the surest way of 
building up a house of them ; — it must never be forgotten on 
the other hand that a blessing waits upon the peacemakers, that 
they are the true children of God, and that the most hopeful 
method of restoring the unity of the Church is, while we un- 
flinchingly and uncompromisingly uphold every essential prin- 
ciple, to maintain all possible candour and indulgence with 
regard to whatever is accidental or personal. 

This is the main difference between the old Broad Stone of 
Honour and the new one. The former breathed a fervent long- 
ing for the reunion of the Catholic Church : the latter is tinged 
with the anticatholic spirit so common among those who would 
monopolize the name of Cathohcs, and is ever breaking out into 
hostility against Protestantism. The historical views too of the 
former were more correct. For the evidence, which was ample 
to vindicate the middle ages from unconditional reprobation, 
cannot avail to establish that their character was without spot 
or blemish. Nor does that which is erroneous and perverse in 
modern times, though well fitted to humble our supercilious 
pride, prove that we are a mere mass of corruption. An 
apology is a different thing from a eulogy ; and even a eu- 
logy should have its limits. Nor are hatred and scorn for his 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



171 



own age likely to qualify a man for acting upon it and bet- 
tering it. 

These remarks will be taken, I hope, as they are meant. I 
could not suffer my former sentence about the Broad Stone of 
Honour to stand without explanation. Yet it goes against one's 
heart to retract praise, where love and admiration are undimin- 
isht. I trust that nothing I have said will hurt the feelings of 
one, who fulfills, as very few men have fulfilled, the idea his writ- 
ings give of their author, and whom I esteem it a blessed privi- 
lege to be allowed to number among my friends. 1837. u. 

Great changes have taken place in the opinions and feehngs 
of many with regard to the Romish Church since the year 
1837. The ignorant, truthless abuse, which had long been 
poured out upon her so unscrupulously, has not indeed ceast to 
flow, nay, may perhaps be as copious as ever : but it has pro- 
voked a reactionary spirit, which is now pouring out apologies 
and eulogiums, with little more knowledge, and an almost equal 
carelessness about truth. It would be inconsistent with the 
character of this Uttle book to engage in such a controversy 
here. In other places I have been compelled to do so, and, if 
God gives me life, and power of speech and pen, shall have to 
do so again and again. For this is one of the chief battles 
wiiich w^e in our days are called to wage because of the word of 
truth and righteousness, a battle, about the final issue of which 
Faith will not let us doubt, but in the course of which many 
intellects will be cast on the ground and trampled under foot, 
many may be made captive, and may have their eyes put out, 
and may even learn to glory in their blindness and their chains. 
Still we know with whom the victory is ; and He will give it 
to the Truth, and to us, if we seek it earnestly and devoutly, 
with pure hearts and minds, in her behalf. 

Now among the delusions and fallacies, whereby divers 
minds, apter to follow the impulses of the imagination, than to 
w eigh the force and examine the consistency of a logical chain, 
have been led to deck out the Church of Rome with charms 
which do not rightly appertain to her, a chief place I believe. 



172 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



belongs to those which the Broad Stone of Honour and the Ages 
of Faith have set forth with such beauty and richness. Hence, 
though I must reserve the exposition of those fallacies for an- 
other occasion, I feel bound to renew my protest against the 
misrepresentations of the whole of modern history which run 
through both these works, the apotheosis of the Middle Ages, 
and the apodiabolosis of the Reformation and its effects. The 
author has indeed attempted to reply to my objections in the 
Epilogue to his last volume, and stoutly maintains, though with 
his usual admirable Christian courtesy, that his pictures do not 
give an erroneous impression either of the past or of the pres- 
ent. An argument on this issue could not be carried on with- 
out long details, illsuited to these small pages. Therefore I 
must leave it to the judgement of such as may be attracted to 
contemplate the visions of beauty and holiness which are con- 
tinually rising up in tliose works. As these visions, however, 
through the revolutions of opinion, have now become deceptive, 
I cannot recommend them to the youthful reader, without 
reminding him at the same time that the theological and eccle- 
siastical controversies of the nineteenth century are not to be 
decided by any selection of the anecdotes or apophthegms of 
the twelfth and thirteenth, and that, even for the sake of form- 
ing an estimate on the worth of any particular period, it is 
necessary to consider that period in all its bearings, in its worse 
and baser, as well as in its better and nobler features, and in its 
relative position with reference to the historical development of 
mankind. If the picture of the Ages of Faith here presented 
to us were faithful and complete, instead of being altogether 
partial, it would no way avail to prove that Popery in our days 
is the one true form of Christianity, any more than York and 
Lincoln minsters prove that the Italians in our days build finer 
churches than we do. 1847. u. 



Every one who knows anything of Horace or of logic, has 
heard of the accumulating sophism : Do twelve grains make a 
heap ? do eighteen ? do twenty ? do twenty-four ? Twenty-four 
grains make a heap ! oh no ! they make a pennyweight. The 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. I73 

reply was well enough for that particular case : but, as a gen- 
eral rule, it is safest to answer such captious questions by a 
comparative, the only elastic and nicely graduated expression 
of degree which common language furnishes. Do twelve grains 
of sand make a heap ? • A greater than eleven. Are a hundred 
yards far for a healthy man to walk 1 Further than ninety- 
nine. 

There is another mode of defense however, which some may 
think sufficient, and for which I must refer my readers to Aris- 
totle's Treatise on Irony. Dont he alarmed at those grains of 
sand, said a philosopher to a young man who appeared sadly 
graveled by the accumulating sophism. The sophist is only 
-playing the part of the East-wind in the comedy. But you dis- 
like such a quantity of dust blown or thrown so palpably into 
your eyes ? Then put on a veil. 

Friendship closes its eyes, rather than see the moon eclipst ; 
while malice denies that it is ever at the full. 



If we could but so divide ourselves as to stay at home at the 
same time, traveling would be one of the greatest pleasures, and 
of the most instructive employments in life. As it is, we often 
lose both ways more than we gain. U. 



Many men spend their lives in gazing at their own shadows, 
and so dwindle away into shadows thereof. u. 

Xot a few writers seem to look upon their predecessors as 
Egyptians, whom they have full licence to spoil of their jewels ; 
a permission, by the by, which, the Jews must have thought, 
was not confi^ned to a particular occasion and people, but went 
along with them whithersoever they went, and has never quite 
expired. And as the jewels taken from the Egyptians were 
employed in making the golden calf, which the Israelites wor- 
shipt as their god, in like manner has it sometimes happened, 
that the poetical plagiary has been so dazzled by his own patch- 
work, as to forget whereof it was made, and to set it up as an 
idol in the temple of his self-love. 



174 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



When we read that the IsraeUtes, at the sight of the calf, 
which they had seen molten in the wilderness, and the materials 
for which they had themselves supplied, cried out, These are thy 
gods, Israel, that brought thee up out of the land of Egypt! — 
we can hardly repress our indignation at such reckless folly. 
Yet how many are there fully entitled to wear the same triple 
cap ! I do not mean misers merely : these are not the sole 
idolaters of the golden calf nowadays. All who worship means, 
of whatsoever kind, material or intellectual, — all, for instance, 
who think, like the able Historian of the War in the Peninsula, 
that it was wholly by the strength and discipline of our armies, 
and by the skill of our general, that we overthrew the imperial 
despotism of France, — all who forget that it is still the Lord 
of Hosts, who breaketh the bow, and knappeth the spear in 
sunder, and burneth the chariots in the fire, — all who are heed- 
less of that vox populi, which, when it bursts from the heaving 
depths of a nation's heart, is in truth vox Dei, — all who take 
no account of that moral power, without which intellectual abil- 
ity dwindles into petty cunning, and the mightiest armies, as 
history has often shewn, become like those armed figures in 
romance, which look formidable at a distance, but which fall to 
pieces at a blow, and display their hollowness, — all who con- 
ceive that the wellbcing of a peo^^le depends upon its wealth, — 
all the doters on steamengines, and cottonmills, and spinning- 
jennies, and railroads, on exports and imports, on commerce and 
manufactures, — all who dream that mankind may be ennobled 
and regenerated by being taught to read, — all these, and mil- 
lions more, who are besotted by analogous delusions in the lesser 
circles of society, and who fancy that happiness may be attained 
by riches, or by luxury, or by fame, or by learning, or by sci- 
ence, — one and all may be numbered among the idolaters of 
the golden calf: one and all cry to their idol, Thou art my god! 
TJiou hast brought us out of the Egypt of darhiess and misery : 
thou wilt lead us to the Canaan of light and joy. Yerily, I 
would as soon fall down before the golden calf itself, as worship 
the great idol of the day, the great public instructor, as it is 
called, the newspaper press. The calf could not even low a lie : 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



175 



and only when the words of the wise are written upon it, can 
paper be worth more than gold. 

And how is it with those who flatter themselves that their 
own good deeds have brought them out of Egypt ? those good 
deeds which God has commanded them to wrest as spoils from 
the land of Sin. How is it with those who blindly trust that 
their good deeds will go before them, and lead them to heaven ? 
Are they not also to be reckoned among the worshippers of the 
golden calf? of an idol, which their own hands have wrought 
and set up ; of an idol, the very materials of which would never 
have been theirs, except through God's command, and the 
strength His command brings with it. Surely, whether it be 
for the past, or the future, we need a better leader than any we 
can either manufacture or mentefacture for ourselves. u. 



One evening, as I was walking by a leafy hedge, a light 
glanced through it across my eyes. At first I tried to fix it, 
but vainly ; till, recollecting that the hedge was the medium of 
sight, instead of peering directly toward the spot, I searcht 
among the leaves for a gap. As soon as I found one, I discov- 
ered a bright star glimmering on me, which I then stood watch- 
ing at my ease. 

A mystic in my situation would have wearied himself with 
hunting for the light in the place where he caught the first 
glance of it, and would not have got beyond an incommunicable 
assurance that he had seen a vision from heaven, of a nature 
rather to be dreamt of than described. A materialist would 
have asserted the light to be visible only in the gap, because 
through that alone could it be seen distinctly ; and thence would 
have inferred the light to be the gap, or (if more acute and logi- 
cal than common) at any rate to be produced by it. 

I have often thought that the beautiful passage, in which our 
Saviour compares Himself to a Hen gathering her chickens un- 
der her wings, — and the sublime one in Deuteronomy, where 
Jehovah's care and guardianship of the Jewish nation is hkened 
to an Eagle stirring up her nest, fluttering over her young, 



176 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



spreading abroad her wings, bearing them on her wings, and 
making them ride on the high places of the earth, — may be 
regarded as symboUcal of tlie peculiar character of the two dis- 
pensations. The earlier was the manifestation of the power of 
God, and shews Him forth in His kingly majesty : the latter is 
the revelation of the love of God, full of all gentleness, and 
household tenderness, and more than fatherly or motherly kind- 
ness, a. 



It has been deemed a great paradox in Christianity, that it 
makes Humility the avenue to Glory. Yet what other avenue 
is there to Wisdom ? or even to Knowledge ? Would you pick 
up precious truths, you must bend down and look for them. 
Everywhere the pearl of great price lies bedded in a shell 
which has no form or comeliness. It is so in physical science. 
Bacon has declared it : Natura non nisi parendo vincitur : and 
the triumphs of Science since his days have proved how willing 
Nature is to be conquered by those who will obey her. It is so 
in moral speculation. Wordsworth has told us the law of his 
own mind, the fulfilment of which has enabled him to reveal a 
new world of poetry : Wisdom is oft-times nearer when we stoop, 
TJian when we soar. That it is so likewise in religion, we are 
assured by those most comfortable words, Except ye become as 
little children^ ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. 

The same truth is well exprest in the aphorism, which Charles 
the First, when he entered his name on the books at Oxford, in 
161G, subjoined to it : Si vis orrmia subjicere, subjice te rationi. 
Happy would it have been for him, if that which flowed thus 
readily from his pen, had also been graven upon his heart ! He 
would not then have had to write it on the history of his coun- 
try with characters more glaring and terrible than those of ink. 

Moreover the whole intercourse between man and man may 
be seen, if we look at it closely, to be guided and regulated by 
the same pervading principle : and that it ought to be so, is 
generally recognised, instinctively at least, if not consciously. 
As I have often heard said by him, who, among all the persons 
I have converst with to the edification of my understanding, had 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



177 



the keenest practical insight into human nature, and best knew 
the art of controlling and governing men, and winning them 
over to their good, — the moment anybody is satisfied with him- 
self, everybody else becomes dissatisfied with him : whenever a 
person thinks much of himself, all other people cease to think 
much of him. Thus it is not only in the parable, that he who 
takes the highest room, is turned down with shame to the low- 
est ; while he who sits down in the lowest room, is bid to go up 
higher. u. 



Strange feelings start up and come forward out of the inner- 
most chambers of Memory, when one is employed, after the 
lapse of ten or a dozen years, in revising a work like the pres- 
ent, which from its nature must needs be so rich in associations 
of all kinds, so intimately connected with the thoughts and feel- 
ings and visions and purposes of former days, and with the old 
familiar faces, now hidden from the outward eye, the very sight 
of which was wont to inspire joy and confidence and strength. 
What would be the heart of an old weatherbeaten hollow 
stump, if the leaves and blossoms of its youth were suddenly 
to spring up out of the mould around it, and to remind it how 
bright and blissful summer was in the years of its prime? 
That which has died within us, is often the saddest portion of 
what Death has taken away, sad to all, sad above measure to 
those in whom no higher life has been awakened. The heavy 
thought is the thought of what we were, of what we hoped and 
purpost to have been, of what we ought to have been, of what 
but for ourselves we might have been, set by the side of what 
we are ; as though we were haunted by the ghost of our own 
youth. This is a thought the crushing weight of which nothing 
but a strength above our own can lighten. Else if our hearts 
do but keep fresh, we may still love those who are gone, and 
may still find happiness in loving them. 

During the last few pages I seem to have been walking 
through a churchyard, strewn with the graves of those whom 
it was my delight to love and revere, of those from whom 1 
learnt with what excellent gifts and powers the spirit of man 
8* L 



178 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



is sometimes endowed. The death of India's excellent bishop, 
Reginald Heber, in whom whatsoever things are lovely were 
found, has already been spoken of. Coleridge, who is men- 
tioned along with him, has since followed him. The light of his 
eye also is quencht ; none shall listen any more to the sweet 
music of his voice : none shall feel their souls teem and burst, 
as beneath the breath of spring, while the lifegiving words of 
the poet-philosopher flow over them. Niebuhr too has past 
from the earth, carrying away a richer treasure of knowledge 
than was ever before lockt up in the breast of a single man. 
And the illustrious friend, to whom I alluded just now, — he 
who was always so kind, always so generous, always so indul- 
gent to the weaknesses of others, while he was always endeav- 
ouring to make them better than they were, — he who was un- 
wearied in acts of benevolence, ever aiming at the greatest, but 
never thinking the least below his notice, — who could descend, 
without feeling that he sank, from the command of armies and 
the government of an empire, to become a peacemaker in village 
quarrels, — he in whom dignity was so gentle, and wisdom so 
playful, and whose laurelled head was girt with a chaplet of all 
the domestic affections, — the soldier, statesman, patriot. Sir 
John Malcolm, — he too is gathered to his fathers. It is a 
sorry amends, that death allows us to give utterance to that 
admiration, which, so long as its object was living, delicacy 
commanded us to suppress. A better consolation lies in the 
thought, that, blessed as it is to have friends on earth, it is still 
more blessed to have friends in heaven. 

But in truth through the whole of this work I have been 
holding converse with him who was once the partner in it, 
as he was in all my thoughts and feelings, from the earhest 
dawn of both. He too is gone. But is he lost to me ? O no ! 
He whose heart was ever pouring forth a stream of love, the 
purity and inexhaustibleness of which betokened its heavenly 
origin, as he was evei- striving to lift me above myself, is still 
at my side, pointing my gaze upward. Only the love, which 
was then hidden within him, has now overflowed and transfig- 
ured his whole being; and his earthly form is turned into that 
of an angel of light. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Thou takest not away, Death ! 
Thou strikest : Absence perisheth ; 

Indifference is no more. 
The future brightens on the sight; 
For on the past has fallen a light, 

That tempts us to adore. 

1837. u. 

The Romans used to say of an argument or opinion which 
spreads rapidly, that it takes the popular mind. I should rather 
say, that the popular mind takes the argument or opinion. 
Takes it ? Yes ; as one takes infection ; catches it, rather, as 
one catches a fever. For truth, like health, is not easily com- 
municated ; but diseases and errours are contagious. 

This being so, how much to be deplored are democratical ele- 
ments in a constitution ! Not unless the people are the head of 
the State : and I have always fancied them the heart ; a heart 
which at times may beat too fast, and perhaps feel too warmly ; 
but which by its pulsations evinces and preserves the life and 
vigour of the social body. 

Of what use are forms, seeing that at times they are empty ? 
Of the same use as barrels, which at times are empty too. 

Men of the world hold that it is impossible to do a disinter- 
ested action, except from an interested motive, — for the sake 
of admiration, if for no grosser, more tangible gain. Doubtless 
they are also convinced, that when the sun is showering light 
from the sky, he is only standing there to be stared at. u. 

Everybody is impatient for the time when he shall be his 
own master. And if coming of age Avere to make one so, if 
years could indeed "bring the philosophic mind," it would 
rightly be a day of rejoicing to a whole household and neigh- 
bourhood. But too often he who is impatient to become his 
own master, when the outward checks are removed, merely 
becomes his own slave, the slave of a master in the insolent 
flush of youth, hasty, headstrong, wayward, and tyrannical. 
, Had he really become his own master, the first act of his do- 



180 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



minion over himself would have been to put himself under the 
dominion of a higher Master and a wiser. u. 



By the ancients courage was regarded as practically the main 
part of virtue : by us, though I hope we are not less brave, 
purity is so regarded now. The former is evidently the animal 
excellence, a thing not to be left out when we are balancing the 
one against the other. Still the following considerations weigh 
more with me. Courage, when not an instinct, is the creation of 
society, depending for occasions of action (which is essential to 
it) on outward circumstances, and deriving much both of its 
character and its motives from popular opinion and esteem. 
But purity is inward, secret, selfsufficing, harmless, and, to 
crown all, thoroughly and intimately personal. It is indeed a 
nature, rather than a virtue ; and, like other natures, when most 
perfect, is least conscious of itself and its perfection. In a 
word. Courage, however kindled, is fanned by the breath oi 
man : Purity lives and derives its life solely from the spirit ol 
God. 

The distinction just noticed has also been pointed out b} 
Landor, in the Conversation between Leopold and Dupaty. 

Effeminacy and wickedness (he makes Leopold say, vol. i. 
p. 62) were correlative terms both in Greek and Latin, as 
were courage and virtue. Among the Enghsh, I hear, softness 
and folly, virtue and purity, are synonymous. Let others deter- 
mine on which side lies the indication of the more quiet, deli- 
cate, and reflecting people." At the same time there is much 
truth in De Maistre's remark (Soirees de St. Petershoiirg, i. p. 
246) : " Ce fut avec nne profonde sagesse que les Romains ap- 
pellerent du meme nom la force et la vertu. II n'y a en effet 
point de vertu proprement dite, sans victoire sur nous-memes ; 
et tout ce qui ne nous coute rien, ne vaut rien." Though mere 
bravery was the etymological groundwork of the name, moral 
energy became the main element in the idea, and, in its Stoic 
form, absorbed all the rest of it. 



Much has been written of late years about the spiritual 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



181 



genius of modern times, as contrasted with the predominance 
of the animal and sensuous life in the classical nations of an- 
tiquity. And no doubt such a distinction exists. With the 
ancients the soul was the vital and motive principle of the 
body: among the moderns the tendency has rather been to 
regard the body as merely the veil or garment of the soul. 
This becomes easily discernible, when, as in the Tribune at 
Florence, we see one of Raphael's heavenly Madonnas beside 
one of those Venuses in which the Spirit of the Earth has put 
forth all the fascination of its beauty. In the latter we look at 
the limbs ; in the former we contemplate the feelings. Before 
the one we might perhaps break out into the exclamation of 
the Bedouin, Blessed he God, who has made heautifid women 1 
unless even that thought stray too high above the immediate 
object before us. In the other the sight does not pause at the 
outward lineaments, but pierces through to the soul ; and we 
behold the meekness of the handmaiden, the purity of the 
virgin, the fervent, humble, adoring love of the mother who 
sees her God in her Child. 

But when the source of this main difference between the two 
great periods in the history of man has been sought after, the 
seekers have gone far astray. They have bewildered them- 
selves in the mazy forest of natural causes, where, as the old 
saying has it, one can't see the wood for the trees I One set 
have talkt about the influence of climate ; as if the sky and 
soil of Italy had undergone some wonderful change between 
the days of Augustus and those when Dante sang and Giotto 
painted. Others have taken their stand among the Northern 
nations, echoing Montesquieu's celebrated remark, that this fine 
system was found in the woods ; as though mead and beer 
could not intoxicate as well as wine ; as though Walhalla with 
its blood and its skull-cups were less sensual than the Elysian 
Islands of the Blest. A third party have gone a journey into 
the East: as if it were possible for the human spirit to be 
more imbruted, more bemired by sensuality, than amid the 
voluptuousness and the macerations of Oriental religions. The 
praise is not of man, but of God. It \.i only by His light, that 



182 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



we see light. If we are at all better than those first men, who 
were of the earth, earthy, it is because the second Man was the 
Lord from Heaven. 

Here let me take up the thread of the foregoing remark 
on the two notions concerning the primary constituent of vir- 
tue. Courage may be considered as purity in outward action ; 
purity as courage in the inner man, in the more appalling 
struggles which are waged within our own hearts. The an- 
cients, as was to be expected, lookt to the former : the moderns 
have rather fixt their attention on the latter. This does not 
result however, as seems to be hinted in the first of the pas- 
sages quoted above, from our superior delicacy and reflexion. 
At least the same question would recur: whence comes this 
superiority of ours in dehcacy and reflexion ? The cause is to 
be found in Christianity, and in Christianity alone. Heathen 
poets and philosophers may now and then have caught fleeting 
glimpses of the principle which has wrought this change : but 
as the foundation of all morality, the one paramount maxim, it 
was first proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount. 

This leads me to notice a further advantage which the 
modern principle has over the ancient ; that courage is much 
oftener found without purity, than purity without courage. 
For although in the physical world one may frequently see 
causes, without their wonted and natural effects, such barren 
causes have no place in the moral world. The concatenation 
there is far more indissoluble, the circulation far more rapid 
and certain. On the other hand the effect, or something like 
it, is not seldom seen without the cause. Not only is there the 
animal instinct, which impurity does not immediately extin- 
guish ; there is also a bastard and ostentatious courage, gener- 
ated and fed by the opinion of the world. But they who are 
pure in heart, they who know what is promist to such purity, 
they who shall see God, what can they fear ? 

The chevalier sans peur was the chevalier sans reproche. It 
is with perfect truth that our moral poet has represented his 
Una as " of nought afraid : " for she was also " pure and 
innocent as that same lamb." u. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



183 



Truth endues man's purposes with somewhat of immuta- 
biUty. 

" Hell (a wise man has said) is paved with good intentions." 
Pluck up the stones, ye sluggards, and break the devil's head 
with them. A. 



Pouvoir c'est vouloir. u. 



To refer all pleasures to association is to acknowledge no 
sound but echo. 

Material evil tends to self-annihilation, good to increase. 



Graeculus esuriens in coehim, Jusseris, ihit. Alas! the com- 
mand has gone forth to the whole world; but not even the 
hungry Greek will obey it. u. 



We often live under a cloud ; and it is well for us that we 
should do so. Uninterrupted sunshine would parch our hearts : 
we want shade and rain to cool and refresh them. Only it 
behoves us to take care, that, whatever cloud may be spread 
over us, it should be a cloud of witnesses. And every cloud 
may be such, if we can only look through to the sunshine that 
broods behind it. u. 

Forms and regularity of proceeding, if they are not justice, 
partake much of the nature of justice, which, in its highest 
sense, is the spirit of distributive order. 



Purity is the feminine. Truth the masculine, of Honour. 



He who wishes to know how a people thrives under a grov- 
eling aristocracy, should examine how vigorous and thick the 
blades of grass are under a plantain. 



Open evil at all events does this good: it keeps good on the 



184 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



alert. When there is no likelihood of an enemy's approach- 
ing, the garrison slumber on their post. u. 

The English constitution being contmually progressive, its 
perfection consists in its acknowledged imperfection. 



In times of public dissatisfaction add readily, to gratify men's 
men's wishes. So the change be made without trepidation, 
there is no contingent danger in the changing. But it is diffi- 
cult to diminish safely, except in times of perfect quiet. The 
first is giving ; the last is giving up. It would have been well 
for England, if her ministers in 1831 had thought of this 
distinction. 



Much of this world's wisdom is still acquired by necroman- 
cy, — by consulting the oracular dead. u. 

Men of principle, from acting independently of instinct, 
when they do wrong, are likely to do great wrong. The chains 
of flesh are not formed of hooks and eyes, to be fastened and 
loost at will. We are not like the dervise in the Eastern story, 
that, having left our own body to animate another, we can re- 
turn to it when we please. Much less can we go on acting a 
double transmigration between the supernatural and the nat- 
ural, wandering to and fro between the intellectual and animal 
states, first unmanning and then remanning ourselves, each to 
serve a turn. Humanity, once put off, is put off for worse, as 
well as for better. If we take not good heed to live angelically 
afterward, we must count on becoming devilish. 

Men are most struck with forai and character, women with 
intellect; perhaps I should have said, with attainments. But 
happily, after marriage, sense comes in to make weight for us. 

A youth's love is the more passionate : virgin love is the 
more idolatrous. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



185 



When will talkers refrain from evil-speaking? When lis- 
teners refrain from evil-hearing. At present there are many 
so credulous of evil, they will receive suspicions and impres- 
sions against persons whom they don't know, from a person 
whom they do know . . in authority to be good for nothing. 

Charity begins at home. This is one of the sayings with 
which Selfishness tries to mask its own deformity. The name 
of Charity is in such repute, to be without it is to be ill spoken 
of What then can the self-ridden do ? except pervert the 
name, so that Selfishness may seem to be a branch of it. 

The charity which begins at home, is pretty sure to end 
there. It has such ample work within doors, it flags and grows 
faint the moment it gets out of them. AYe see this from what 
happens in the cases, where even such as reject the prior claim 
in its ordinary sense, are almost all disposed to maintain it. 
Very few are there, who do not act according to the maxim, 
that Charity begins at home, when it is to be shewn to faults or 
vices, unless indeed they are imaginary or trifling : and few, 
very few, are truly charitable to the failings of others, except 
those who are severe to their own. For indifference is not 
charity, but the stone which the man of the world gives to his 
neighbour in place of bread. u. 



Some persons take reproof goodhumouredly enough, unless 
you are so unlucky as to hit a sore place. Then they wince, 
and writhe, and start up, and knock you down for your imperti-" 
nence, or wish you good morning. u. 



Proprium humani ingenii est odisse quern laeseris. Such is 
the devil's hatred of God : and so fiendish is the nature of 
hatred, it is seldom very violent, and never implacable and 
irreconcilable, except when it is unjust and groundless. In 
truth what we hate is the image of our own wrong set before 
us in him whom we have injured : and here as everywhere 
our past sins are the fuel which make our passions burn the 
fierceliest. u. 



186 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



We look to our last sickness for repentance, unmindful that 
it is during a recovery men repent, not during a sickness. For 
sickness, by the time we feel it to be such, has its own trials, its 
own selfishness : and to bear the one, and overcome the other, 
is at such a season occupation more than enough for any who 
have not been trained to it by previous disciphne and practice. 

The same may be said of old age, — perhaps with still more 
justice, since old age has no beginning. 

The feeUng is often the deeper truth, the opinion the more 
superficial one. 



I suspect we have internal senses. The mind's eye, since 
Shakspeare's time, has been proverbial : and we have also a 
mind's ear. To say nothing of dreams, one certainly can listen 
to one's own thoughts, and hear them, or believe that one hears 
them, — the strongest argument adducible in favour of our 
hearing anything. 



Many objects are made venerable by extraneous circum- 
stances. The moss, ivy, lichens, and weatherstains on that old 
ruin, picturesque and , soothing as they are, formed no part in 
the conception of the architect, nor in the work or purpose of 
the builder, but are the subsequent adaptations of Time, which 
with regard to such things is in some sort an agent, bringing 
them under the influences of Nature. And what should fol- 
•low ? Only that, in obeying the perceptions of the intellect, 
and distinguishing logically between accidents and properties, 
we turn not frowardly from the dictates of the heart, nor cease 
to feel, because we have ascertained the composite nature of 
our feelings ; as though it were impossible to contemplate the 
parts in a living whole, and there were no other analysis than 
dissection. Only this; and thankfulness for that which has 
enabled us so to venerate ; and wisdom to preserve the mod- 
ifying tints, which have coloured the object to the tone of our 
imaginations. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



187 



The difference between those whom the world esteems as 
good, and those whom it condemns as bad, is in many cases little 
else than that the former have been better sheltered from temp- 
tation, u. 



Political economists tell us that self-love is the bond of soci- 
ety. Strange then must be the construction of what is called 
Society, when it is cemented by the strongest and most eating 
of all solvents. For self-love not only dissolves all harmonious 
fellowship between man and man, but even among the various 
powers and faculties within the breast of the same man ; which, 
when under its sway, can never work together, so as to produce 
an orderly, organical whole. Can it be, that Society has been 
feeding upon poisons, till they have become, not merely harm- 
less, but, as this opinion would make them, the only wholesome, 
nourishing diet ? U. 

Ghosts never work miracles : nor do they ever come to life 
again. When they appear, it is to beg to be buried, or to beg 
to be revenged ; without which they cannot rest. Both ways 
their object is to lie in peace. This should be borne in mind 
by political and philosophical ghostseers, ghostlovers, and ghost- 
mongers. The past is past, and must pass through the present, 
not hop over it, into the future. u. 



What are those teeth for ^ grandmamma'^ said little Red-Rid- 
inghood to the Wolf. What are those laws for ? might many a 
simple man ask in like manner of his rulers and governors. 
And in sundry instances, I am afraid, the Wolf's answer would 
not be far from the truth. u. 



It is a mistake to suppose the poet does not know Truth by 
sight quite as well as the philosopher. He must ; for he is ever 
seeing her in the mirror of Nature. The difference between them 
is, that the poet is satisfied with worshiping her reflected im- 
age ; while the philosopher traces her out, and follows her to her 
remote abode between cause and consequence, and there im- 



188 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



pregnates her. The one loves and makes love to Truth ; the 
other esteems and weds her. In simpler ages the two things 
went together ; and then Poetry and Philosophy were united. 
But that universal solvent, Civilization, which pulverizes to 
cement, and splits to fagot, has divided them ; and they are 
now far as the Poles asunder. 



The imagination and the feelings have each their truths, as 
well as the reason. The absorption of the three, so as to con- 
centrate them in the same point, is one of the universalities 
requisite in a true religion. 

Man's voluntary works are shadows of objects perceived 
either by his senses or his imagination. The inferiority of the 
copies to their originals in the former class of works is evident. 
Man can no more string dewdrops on a gossamer thread, than 
he can pile up a Mont Blanc, or scoop out an ocean. How 
passing excellent may we then hope to find the realities, from 
which the offspring of his imagination are the shadows ! since 
that offspring, all shadowy as they are, will often be fairer than 
any sensible existence. 

In a mist the hights can for the most part see each other ; 
but the vallies cannot. 



Mountains never shake hands. Their roots may touch : they 
may keep together some way up : but at length they part com- 
pany, and rise into individual, insulated peaks. So is it with 
great men. As mountains mostly run in chains and clusters, 
crossing the plain at wilder or narrower intervals, in like man- 
ner are there epochs in history when great men appear in clus- 
ters also. At first too they grow up together, seeming to be 
animated by the same spirit, to have the same desires and an- 
tipathies, the same purposes and ends. But after a w^hile the 
genius of each begins to know itself, and to follow its own bent : 
they separate and diverge more and more : and those who, when 
young, were working in consort, stand alone in their old age. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 189 

But if mountains do not shake hands, neither do they kick 
each other. Their human counterparts unfortunately are more 
pugnacious. Ahhough they break out of the throng, and strive 
to soar in sohtary eminence, they cannot bear that their neigh- 
bours should do the same, but complain that they impede the 
view, and often try to overthrow them, especially if they are 
higher. u. 

Are Ave really more enlightened than our ancestors ? Or is 
it merely the flaring up of the candle that has burnt down to 
the socket, and is consuming that socket, as a prelude to its own 
extinction ? Such at least has been the character of those for- 
mer ages of the world, which have prided themselves on being 
the most enlightened. u. 

What way of circumventing a man can be so easy and suit- 
able as a period ? The name should be enough to put us on 
our guard : the experience of every age is not. 



I suspect the soul is never so hampered by its enthralment 
within the body, as when it loves. Pluck the feathers out of a 
bird's wings ; and, be it ever so young, its youth will not save it 
from suffering by the loss, when instinct urges it to attempt fly- 
ing. Unless indeed there be no such thing as instinct; and 
flying real kites be, like flying paper kites, a mere matter of 
education : which reminds me to ask why, knowing there are 
instincts of the body, we are to assume there are no instincts of 
the mind ? To refer w^hatever we should at first sight take for 
such to the eliciting power of circumstances, is idle. Circum- 
stances do indeed call them out, at the particular moment when 
they try their tendencies and strength, but no more create, or 
rather (since creating is out of the question) no more produce 
them, except as pulling the end of a roll of string produces it, 
— that h,prodiicit or draics it forth, — than flying is produced 
or given by the need of locomotion. 

To return to the soul : if, — and I believe the fact to be un- 
deniable, — human nature, until it has been hardened by much 



100 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



exposure to passion, and become used to the public eye, is fond 
of veiling love with silence and concealment, while it makes 
little or no scruple of exhibiting the kindred sentiment of friend- 
ship ; I see no good way of accounting for this, except by refer- 
ring such shamefastness of the soul to its sensitive recoil from a 
form of affection in which, as Nature whispers, its best and 
purest feelings are combined and kneaded up with body. 

The bashfulness which hides affection, from a dread that the 
avowal will be ill received, — the fear of bringing one's judge- 
ment in question by what some may deem a misplaced choice, 
— the consciousness that all choice is invidious, from involving 
postponement as well as preference, — all these feelings and 
motives, I am aware, have often considerable weight. But they 
must weigh nearly as much in the case of friendship. Friend- 
ship indeed may be indulged in boyhood, while love is a boon 
reserved for our maturity; and hence doubtless frequently 
during youth a fear of being thought presumptuous, if we are 
discovered fancying ourselves grown old enough to love. But 
this can never furnish the right key to a reserve, which is nei- 
^ ther limited to youth, nor directly acted on by time, which varies 
in different countries with their degree of moral cultivation, and 
in individuals appears to proportion its intensity to the depth 
and purity of the heart in which it cowers. 

The body, the body is the root of it. But these days of adul- 
tery are much too delicate to allow of handling the subject 
further. 



Everybody is ready to declare that Cesar's wife ought to be 
above suspicion ; and many, while saying this, will dream that 
Cesar must be of their kin. Yet most people, and among them 
her husband, would be slow to acknowledge, what would seem 
to follow a fortiori, that Cesar himself ought to be so too. Or 
does a splash of mud defile a man more than a mortifying 
ulcer ? 

Among the numberless contradictions in our nature, hardly 
any is more glaring than this, between our sensitiveness to the 
slightest disgrace which we fancy cast upon us from without, 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



191 



and our callousness to the grossest which we bring down on our- 
selves. In truth they who are the most sensitive to the one, 
are often the most callous to the other. u. 



The wise man will always be . able to find an end in the 
means ; though bearing in mind at the same time that they are 
means to a higher end. And this is according to God's work- 
ing, every member of whose universe is at once a part and a 
whole. The unwise man, on the other hand, he whom the 
Psalmist calls the fool, can never see anything but means in 
the end. Doing good is with him the means of going to heav- 
en ; and going to heaven is the means of getting to do nothing. 
For this is the vulgar notion of heaven, — a comfortable sine- 
cure, u. 



What if we live many and various lives ? each providing us 
its peculiar opportunities of acquiring some new good, and cast- 
ing away the slough of some old evil ; so that the course of our 
existence should include a series of lessons, and the world be 
indeed a stage on which every man fills many parts. If the 
doctrine of transmigration has never been taught in this form, 
such is perhaps the idea embodied in the fxiidos. 

Impromptus in recluse men are likely to be a loisir ; and 
presence of mind in thinking men is likely to be recollection. 
Cesar indeed says it is so generally (B. G. v. 33). " Titurius, 
uti qui nihil ante providisset, trepidare, concursare, cohortesque 
disponere ; haec tamen ipsa timide, atque ut eum omnia deficere 
viderentur : quod plerumque iis accidere consuevit, qui in ipso 
negotio consilium capere coguntur. At Cotta, qui cogitasset 
haec posse in itinere accidere, . . . nulla in re communi saluti 
deerat." 

Much to the same purpose is Livy's explanation of Philope- 
men's readiness in decision, when he suddenly found himself in 
the presence of a hostile force : xxxv. 28. It is pleasant to see 
theoretical and practical intellects thus jumping together. 



192 



GUESSES AT TEUTH. 



Napoleon is well said by Tiedge " to have improvisoed his 
whole life." He was Fortune's football, which she kickt from 
throne to throne, until at length by a sudden rebound he fell 
into the middle of the Atlantic. Whereas a truly great man's 
actions are works of art. Nothing with him is extemporized or 
improvisoed. They involve their consequences, and develope 
themselves along with the events they give birth to. u. 

He must be a thorough fool, who can learn nothing from his 
own folly. u. 



Is not man the only automaton upon earth ? The things usu- 
ally called so are in fact heteromatons. u. 



Were nothing else to be learnt from the Rhetoric and Ethics 
of Aristotle, they should be studied by every educated English- 
man as the best of commentaries on Shakspeare. 

No poet comes near Shakspeare in the number of bosom 
lines, — of lines that we may cherish in our bosoms, and that 
seem almost as if they had grown there, — of lines that, like 
bosom friends, are ever at hand to comfort, counsel, and glad- 
den us, under all the vicissitudes of life, — of lines that, accord- 
ing to Bacon's expression, " come home to our business and 
bosoms," and open the door for us to look in, and to see what is 
nestling and brooding there. u. 

How many Englishmen admire Shakspeare ? Doubtless all 
who understand him; and, it is to be hoped, a few more. For 
how many Englishmen understand Shakspeare ? Were Dioge- 
nes to set out on his search through the land, I trust he would 
bring home many hundreds, not to say thousands, for every one 
I should put up. To judge from what has been written about 
him, the Englishmen who understand Shakspeare are little 
more numerous than those who understand the language spoken 
in Paradise. You will now and then meet with ingenious re- 
marks on t)articular passages, and even on particular characters, 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



193 



or rather on particular features in them. But these remarks 
are mostly as incomplete and unsatisfactory as the description 
of a hand or foot would be, unless viewed with reference to the 
whole body. He who wishes to trace the march and to scan 
the operations of this most marvellous genius, and to discern 
the mysterious organization of his wonderful w^orks, will find 
little help but what comes from beyond the German Ocean. 

It is scarcely worth while asking the third question : Would 
Shakspeare have chosen rather to be admired, or to be under- 
stood? Not however that any one could understand without 
admiring, though many may admire Avithout understanding 
him. Birds are fond of cherries, yet know little about vegeta- 
ble physiology. 

Some years ago indeed there seemed to be ground for hoping 
that the want here spoken of might be supplied by the publica- 
tion of Coleridge's Lectures on Shakspeare. For though Cole- 
ridge, as he himself says of Warburton, is often hindered from 
seeing the thoughts of others by " the mist-working swarm," or 
rather by the radiant flood of his own, — though often, like the 
sun, when looking at the planets, he only beholds his own image 
in the objects of his gaze, and often, when his eye darts on a 
cloud, will turn it into a rainbow, — yet he had a livelier per- 
ception, than any other Englishman, of the two cardinal ideas 
of all criticism, — that every work of genius is at once an 
organic whole in itself, and the part and member of a living, 
organic universe, of that poetical world in which the spirit of 
man manifests itself by successive avatars. These, the two 
main ideas which have been brought to light and unfolded by 
the philosophical criticism of Germany since the days of "Winc- 
kelmann and Lessing, he united with that moral, political, and 
practical discernment, which are the highest endowments of 
the English mind, and which give our great writers a dignity 
almost unparalleled elsewhere, from their ever-wakeful con- 
sciousness that man is a moral, as well as sentient and percip- 
ient and thinking and knowing being, and that his relations as 
a moral being are of all the most momentous and the highest. 
Coleridge's own imagination too enabled him to accompany all 

! 9 M 

I 



194 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



other poets in their boldest flights, and then to feel most truly 
in his element. Nor could anything be too profound or too 
subtile for his psychological analysis. In fact his chief failing 
as a critic was his fonchiess for seeking depth below depth, and 
knot within knot : and he would now and then try to dive, when 
the water did not come up to his ancles. 

Above all, for understanding Shakspeare, Coleridge had the 
two powers, which are scarcely less mighty in our intellectual 
than in our moral and spiritual life. Faith and Love, — a 
boundless faith in Shakspeai-e's truth, and a love for him, akin 
to that with which philosophers study the works of Nature, 
shrinking from no labour for the sake of getting at a satisfac- 
tory solution, and ahvays distrusting themselves until they have 
found one, in a fimi confidence that Wisdom will infallibly be 
justified by her children. It is quite touching to see how hum- 
bly this great thinker and poet hints his doubts, when the pro- 
priety of any passage in Shakspeare appears questionable to 
his understanding : and most cheering is it to read his assur- 
ance, that " in many instances he has ripened into a perception 
of beauties, where he had before descried faults ; " and that 
throughout his life, "at every new accession of information, 
after every successful exercise of meditation, and every fresh 
presentation of experience, he had unfailingly discovered a pro- 
portionate increase of wisdom and intuition in Shakspeare." 
See his Literary Remains, Voh ii. pp. 52, 115, 139. The 
same truth is enforced by Mr De Quincey in his admirable 
remarks on the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth. 

In the study of poetry, as in yet higher studies, it is often 
necessary that we should believe, before we can understand : 
and through the energy, patience, and perseverance, which 
Faith alone can inspire, do we mount to the understanding of 
what we have already believed in. How, for instance, should 
we ever have discerned the excellences of the Greek drama, 
without a previous faith in its excellence, strong enough not to 
shrink from the manifold difficulties which would else have 
repelled us ? AVho would be at the trouble of cracking a nut, 
if he did not believe there was a kernel within it? A study 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



19o 



pursued in this spirit of faith is sure of being continually re- 
warded by new influxes of knowledge, not only on account of 
the spring which such a spirit gives to our faculties, but also 
because it delivers them from most of the prejudices, which 
make our minds the thralls of the present. Common men, on 
the other hand, are prone to look down on whatever passes 
their comprehension, thus betraying the natural affinity between 
ignorance and contempt. 

Unfortunately Coleridge's Lectures are among the treasures 
which the waves of forgetfulness have swallowed up. Precious 
fragments of them however have been preserved ; and these, 
like almost all his writings, are rich in thoughts fitted to awaken 
reflexion, and to guide it. And that there are writers amongst 
us, who understand Shakspeare, and might teach others to 
understand him, is proved by the remarks on Macbeth just 
referred to, as well as by the very acute and judicious Ohser- 
vations on Shahspeare's Romeo as compared with the Romeo 
acted on the Stage. Much delicacy of observation too and ele- 
gance of taste is shewn in the Characteristics of Shakspeare's 
Women, — one of the happiest subjects on which a female pen 
was ever employed. u. 

" The German writers (Coleridge is reported to have said) 
have acquired an elegance of thought and of mind, just as we 
have attained a style and smartness of composition : so that, if 
you were to read an ordinary German author as an English 
one, you would say. This man has something in him ; this man 
thinks : whereas it is merely a method acquired by them, as we 
have acquired a style." Letters and Conversations of S. T. C. 
Vol. ii. p. 4. 

Such pieces of tabletalk are not legitimate objects of criti- 
cism ; because we can never feel sure how far the report is an 
accurate one, or how far the opinion uttered may have been 
modified, either expressly by words, or implicitly by the occa- 
sion which prompted it. What is here said is quite true, pro- 
vided it be not understood disparagingly. The peculiar value 
of modern German literature does not arise, except in a few 

i 



]96 



GUKSSKS AT TRUTH. 



instances, from the superior genius of the writers, so much as 
fi'om their being better trained and discipluied in the principles 
and method of knowledge. For this advantage they are in- 
debted to their philosophical education. Fifty years ago the 
common run of German writers were as superficial and imme- 
thodical as those of the rest of Europe. The love of system, 
which has always characterized the nation, only prevented any 
gleam of light from breaking througli the clouds of dulness in 
which they wrapt themselves. But now, as in most of the 
better writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries we 
mav discern the influence of the scholastic logic, in which they 
were trained, so one can hardly look into a German work of 
the present century, on whatever subject of enquiry, without 
perceiving that it is written by a countryman of Kant and 
Fichte and ScheUing. And surely tliis is the highest reward 
which can fall to the lot of any human intellect, to be thus dif- 
fused through and amalgamated with the intellect of a whole 
people, to live in their minds, not merely when they are think- 
ing of you and talking of you, but even when they are totally 
unconscious of your personal existence. 

Nay, what but this is the ground of the superiority of civil- 
ized nations to savages ? Their minds are better moulded and 
disciplined, more or less, by the various processes of education. 
In fact training, if it does not impart strength, fosters and 
increases it, and renders it serviceable, and prevents its running 
waste: so that, assuming the quantity of abihty allotted by 
Nature to two nations to be the same, that which has the better 
system of moral and intellectual culture, will bring up the 
greater number of able men. 

It is true, tlie forms of philosophical thought, when generally 
prevalent, so as to become fashionable in a literature, will be 
used by many without discernment of their value and power. 
Many will fancy that the possession of a few phrases is enough 
to open the gates of all knowledge to them, and to carry them 
at once beyond the wisdom of former ages, witliout any neces- 
sity for personal research or meditation : and imbecility, self- 
complacently mouthing big phrases, is more than usually offen- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



197 



sive. Perhaps too it is impossible to devise any scheme of 
education, which can be reckoned upon for promoting the 
development of poetical genius. This is implied in the saying, 
Poeta nascitur, non jit. Nor is genius in philosophy, or in art, 
though more dependent on foregoing circumstances than in 
poetry, to be elicited with certainty by any system. But for 
the talents employed in the various enquiries of philology and 
science, a great deal may be done by appropriate stimulants 
and instruction, by putting them in the right way, and setting 
before them the mark they are to aim at. Hence, whenever a 
man of genius plants a colony in an unexplored region of 
thought, he finds followers ready to join him in effecting what 
his own unassisted arm could only partially have accomplisht : 
and though stray pieces of ore may be pickt up without excit- 
ing much notice, if a mine of truth has once been successfully 
opened, it is mostly workt on until it is exhausted. 

Soon after reading the remark of Coleridge's just cited, I 
happened to open a German periodical Avork containing a dis- 
sertation on the Amphitryon of Plautus. That play, the wi-iter 
observes, differs from all the other Roman comedies in having 
a mythological subject, Avhich occasions essential differences in 
its treatment ; so that it forms a distinct species : and he pro- 
poses to examine the nature of this peculiar form of comedy, 
according to its external and internal character ; not to explain 
the poetical composition of the Amphitryon, considered as an 
individual work of art, but merely to determine the place it is 
to liold in the history of the Roman drama. Now this, which 
is exactly the plan any intelligent German writer would have 
taken in treating the same subject, may exemplify the quality 
in German literature spoken of by Coleridge. Here too one 
should say, This man hiows what he is talking about: and one 
should say so with good reason. For in criticism, as in every 
other branch of knowledge, prudens quaestio dimidium scientiae 
est. He Avho has got the clue, may thread the maze. Yet the 
method of investigation here is totally different fi-om what an 
English scholar would have pursued. The notion of regarding 
the Amjyhitryon as a distinct species of ancient comedy, and of 



198 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



considering that species in its relation to the rest of the Roman 
drama, — the distinction drawn between this historical view of 
it, and the esthetical analysis of it taken by itself, — these are 
thoiinrhts which would never have entered the head of an Eno-- 
lish critic, unless he had been inoculated with them either 
directly or indirectly from Germany. Deluged as we are with 
criticism in every shape, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily, 
— many thousands of pages as are written on criticism in Eng- 
land every year, — we hardly ever find the glimmering of a 
suspicion that there is anything essential in the form of a poem, 
or that there are any principles and laws to determine it, or 
that a poet has anything to do, except to get an interesting 
story, and to describe interesting characters, and to deck out 
his pages with as many fine thoughts and pretty images as he 
can muster. No wonder that our criticism is so worthless and 
unprofitable ! that it is of no manner of use, either in teaching 
our writers how to write, or our readers how to read ! 

Let me allude to another instance. Works containing criti- 
cisms on all Shakspeare's plays have been publisht of lat 
years, by Hazlitt in England, and by Francis Horn in Ger 
many. Nobody can doubt that Hazlitt by nature had th 
acuter and stronger understanding of the two: he had culti 
vated it by metaphysical studies : he had a passionate love fo 
poetry, and yielded to no man in his admiration for Shakspeare 
By his early intercourse with Coleridge too he had been led t 
perceive more clearly than most Englishmen, that poetry is no 
an arbitrary and chanceful thing, that it has a reason of i 
own, and that, when genuine, it springs from a vital idea, whic 
is at once constitutive and regulative, and which manifests itse' 
not in a technical apparatus, but in the free S3^mmetry of a li 
ing form. Yet, from the want of a proper intellectual disciplin 
and method, his perception of this truth never became an intu 
ition, nor coalesced with the rest of his knowledge : and owin 
to this want, and no doubt to that woful deficiency of mor 
discipline and principle, through which his talents went to rack 
Hazlitt's work on Shakspeare, though often clever and spark 
ling, and sometimes ingenious in pointing out latent beauties i 



GUESSES AT TEUTH. 



199 



particular passages, is vastly inferior to Horn's as an analytical 
ex])osition of the principles and structure of Shakspeare's plays, 
tracing and elucidating the hidden, labyrinthine workings of his 
all-vivifying, all-unifying genius. u. 

When a subtile critic has detected some recondite beauty in 
Sliakspcare, the vulgar are fain to cry that Shakspeare did not 
mean it. Well! what of that? If it be there, his genius 
meant it. This is the very mark whereby to know a true poet. 
There will always be a number of beauties in his works, which 
he never meant to put into them. 

This is one of the resemblances between the works of 
Genius and those of Nature, a resemblance betokening that 
the powers which produce them are akin. Each, beside its 
immediate, apparent purpose, is ever connected by certain deli- 
cate and almost imperceptible fibres, by numberless ties of 
union and communion, and the sweet intercourse of giving and 
receiving, with the universe of which it forms a part. Hereby 
the poet shews that he is not a mere " child of Time, But off- 
spring of the Eternal Prime." His works are not narrowed to 
the climes and seasons, the manners and thoughts that give 
birth to them, but spread out their invisible arms through time 
and space, and, when generations, and empires, and even relig- 
ions have past away, still stand in unwaning freshness and 
truth. They have a living assimilative power. As man 
changes, they disclose new features and aspects, and ever look 
him in the face with the reflexion of his own image, and speak 
to him with the voice of his own heart ; so that after thousands 
of years we still welcome them as we would a brother. 

This too is the great analogy between Genius and Goodness, 
that, unconscious of its own excellences, it works, not so much 
by an intelligent, reflective, prospective impulse of the will, as 
by the prompting of a higher spirit, breathing in it and through 
it, coming one knows not whence, and going one knows not 
whither ; under the sway of which spirit, whenever it lifts up 
its head and shakes its locks, it scatters light and splendour 
around. The question therefore, whether a great poet meant 



200 GUESSES AT TRUTH. 

such a jDarticular beauty, comes to much the same thing as the 
question, whether the sun means that his hght should enter into 
such or such a flower. He who works in unison with Nature 
and Truth, is sure to be far mightier and wiser than him- 
self, u. 



The poet sees things as they look. Is this having a faculty 
the less ? or a sense the more ? 



Some hearts are like a melting peach, but with a larger, 
coarser, harder stone. 

I like the smell of a dunged field, and the tumult of a j^opu- 
lar election. 



Almost every rational man can shew nearly the same num- 
ber of moral virtues. Only in the good man the active and 
beneficent virtues look outward, the passive and parsimonious 
inward. In the bad man it is just the contrary. His fore- 
thought, his generosity, his longsuffering is for himself; his 
severity and temperance and frugality are for others. But the 
religious virtues belong solely to the religious. God hides 
Himself from the wicked : or at least the wicked blinds himself 
to God. If he practically acknowledge any, which is only nov^r 
and then, it is one whose nonexistence is certain, whose fabu- 
lousness is evident to him . . the Devil. 



We like slipping, but not falling : our real desire is to be 
tempted enough. 

The man who will share his wealth with a woman, has some 
love for her : the man who can resolve to share his poverty 
with her, has more . . of course supposing him to be a man, 
not a child, or a beast. 



Our statequacks of late years have thought fit to style them- 
selves Radical Reformers: and though the title involves an 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



201 



absurdity, it is not on that account less fitted for the sages who 
have assumed it ; nuuiy of whom moreover may have no very 
clear notion what the epithet they give themselves means. For 
what can a Radical llefbrmer be ? Is he a Reformer of the 
roots of things ? But Nature buries these out of sight, and will 
not allow man to tamper with them, assigning him the task of 
training and pruning the stem and branches. Or is a Radical 
Reformer one who tears up a tree by the roots, and reforms it 
by laying it prostrate ? If so, our Reformers may indeed put 
in a claim to the title, and might fairly contest it with the hurri- 
cane of last autumn. But what can be the good or comfort of 
a reformation, which is only another name for destruction ? 

The word may perhaps be borrowed from medicine, in which 
we speak of a radical cure. This however is a metaphor 
implying the extirpation, or complete uprooting of the disease, 
after which the sanative powers of Nature will restore the con- 
stitution to health. But there is no such sanative power in a 
state ; where the mere removal of abuses does not avail to set 
any vital faculties in action. In truth this is only another form 
of the errour, by which man, ever quicker at destroying than at 
producing, has confounded repentance with reformation, /xera- 
fte'Xeia with ixerdvoca. Whereas the true Reformer is he who 
creates new institutions, and gives them life and energy, and 
trusts to them for throwing off such evil humours as may be 
lying in the body politic. The true Reformer is the Seminal 
Reformer, not the Radical. And this is the way the Sower, 
who went forth to sow His seed, did really reform the world, 
without making any open assault to uproot what was already 
existing. 1837. u. 

A writer, for whom I have a high esteem, in the Politics for 
the People (p. 222), objects to the foregoing remarks on the 
name Radical, and asserts that "there can be no Seminal Re- 
form, without Radical Reform first, where Reform is needed at 
all. Is the wheat (he asks) sown amidst the stubble, or on the 
rush-grown meadow, or on the common covered with heather and 
gorse ? Must not the stern ploughshare first be driven through 
9 * 



202 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



the soil, rooting up, right and left, all evil growths of the past, 
all good growths grown useless ! Was He not the greatest of 
Radical Reformers, of whose work it was said, And now also 
the axe is laid to the root of the trees ; therefore every one that 
hringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. 
Since the first day when the ground was curst for man's sake, 
and made to bring forth thorns and thistles, it has been every 
true man's lot and duty to be a Radical Reformer, whether on 
a small scale or a large. But such Radical Reform is indeed 
only a means towards Seminal Reform ; the weeds are only 
pluckt up, that the good seed may be put in ; and that seed 
every true man is bound to be throwing in as perpetually, as 
he is perpetually rooting out the weeds. It is not the Radical 
Reformer who is the Destructive ; it is the blind Conservative, 
who looks upon the thorns and thistles as holy, instead of feel- 
ing that they are God's curse." 

In reply to these objections, I will merely point out a couple 
of fallacies, as they seem to me, contained in them. 

The first is, that the analogy between agriculture and state- 
culture is pusht far beyond its due limits. The vegetable crop, 
as it has no living soul, no permanent being, — as it has a 
merely transient purpose, external to itself, — is swept away at 
the end of the harvest, w^hen that purpose is fulfilled. But no 
Reformer, however Radical, not even Robespierre, has ventured 
to lay down that the generations of mankind are to be swept 
away one after another, in order to make room for their succes- 
sors. The chain of the human race does not consist of a num- 
ber of distinct, annual links : each annual link combines the 
produce of a century ; and all these run one into the other. So 
too do their habits ; so do their institutions, social and political. 
There is no new beginning in the history of the world : or, if 
there is one new era, it was introduced by a superhuman Author; 
and even that stretches back through the whole of anterior 
history. The French Republicans did indeed attempt to estab- 
lish a new era : but the builders of Babel were not more sig- 
nally confounded, than they by the powers which they evoked 
from hell. The inherent vitality of the nation, after, a while; 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



203 



prevailed over the destroyer, not however without incalculable 
misery at the time, and grievous deterioration to the moral 
character of the people. Hence I cannot see in what sense we 
can speak of "driving the stern ploughshare" through the 
social life and institutions of a nation. He who does not know 
that a nation has a living, permanent being, and that its organic 
institutions are intimately connected with that permanent life, 
— he who feels no reverence for that being, and the institutions 
connected with it, — he who worships his own notions above 
them, and would set up his own fancies in their stead, — is 
sadly lacking in that spirit, which is the primary element in the 
character of a wise and practical Reformer. 

In the next place it seems to me a total mistake, to apply 
the words of the Baptist, — And now the axe is laid to the root 
of the tree, &c. — to any work ordained for man. When the 
appointed time comes, God does indeed shew forth His justice 
by sweeping away that which is utterly corrupt. As He 
swept away the cities of the plain, so, when her cup was full, 
did He sweep away Jerusalem. Yet even the Son of God, in 
His human manifestation, came not to destroy, but to save. He 
would have gathered Jerusalem under His wings; but she 
would not : therefore was her house left desolate. Assuredly 
too this is the only part of His office, which we are called to 
discharge. As His ministers, we are to be ministers of salva- 
tion, not of destruction. The evil in ourselves indeed we are 
to pluck up, branch and root : but in our dealings with others, 
unless we have a special office committed to us by the laws of 
family or national life, our task will mainly be to contend 
against evil by sowing the seeds of good, not by Eadical Ee- 
form, but by Seminal. The satirist, the rhetorician, the moral- 
ist, will indeed try the former, and will therefore fail. The 
Christian has a higher power entrusted to him, the power of 
God's goodness and mercy, — the Gospel of redemption and 
salvation, — not the woes of the Trojan prophetess, who could 
gain no credence, but the glad tidings of the Kingdom of 
Heaven : and if he relies on this one power, he will succeed, 
where others must needs fail. For Earth cannot overpower 



204 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Hell ; but Heaven can. Elijah, under the old Dispensation, 
might be commissioned to destroy the worship of Baal by the 
sword : such destruction however is ineffectual, transitory : that 
w^hich has been destroyed sprouts up again : for the roots dive 
beyond the reach of the hoe and pickaxe, even into the depths 
of the heart. Hence vou must sow the seed, which will chanofe, 
and, as it were, leaven the heart, so that the heart itself will 
cast them out convulsively. 

This was Avhat our Lord Himself did. Though the Jewish 
nation was doomed to perish, every act of His life was designed 
to save the Jews, if they would accept His salvation. Nor did 
the Apostles go forth to destroy the idols and idolatries of the 
nations. In so doing they would have forsaken Christ's way, 
and would have anticipated Mahomet's. Thry preacht Christ 
and the Resurrection, — Christ crucified, the power of God 
unto salvation ; and hereby they overthrew the idolatries and 
superstitions of the nations, not transitorily, but permanently. 
So again at the Reformation, Luther, having the true Apostol- 
ical spirit in him, — the spirit of a Seminal, not of a Radical 
Reformer, was ever strenuous in resisting all attempts to carry 
out the Reformation by destructive, revolutionary, radical meas- 
ures. Preach the loord of God, he said, — preach the truth ; 
and the truth will set us free. The shooting of the new leaves 
will push off the old ones, far more effectually than the winds 
can tear them off. And the former is the human. Christian 
procedure : the latter is committed to the bhnd powers of Na- 
ture, though man, acting under the sway of his passions, may at 
times become their instrument. 

These same principles will also regulate the conduct of the 
true Christian statesman. Like Luther, he will be very slow 
and reluctant to destroy any ancient institution, knowing that 
the temporary evils which may arise from its perversion, are 
caused, not by the institution itself, but by the heart and will of 
those who pervert it, and that this heart and will would in no 
degree be corrected by its destruction. He will indeed find 
frequent occasion for lopping and pruning off morbid outgrowths 
and overgrowths, as well as for training the healthy growths of 



GUESSES' AT TRUTH. 



205 



each successive year: but lie will remember that this is his 
business, to prune off, not to cut down. The sophists of the 
last century, and at the beginning of the present, forgot this : 
nor is it sufficiently borne in mind now. They forgot that a 
nation has a living, organic growth, which manifests itself in its 
constitution, and in its various institutions: they regarded it 
rather as a machine, which they might take to pieces, and re- 
construct at will, this way or that. These notions, which are 
refuted by the teaching of all the greatest political philosophers, 
above all of Burke, — and which have been still more signally 
refuted by the cracking and breaking up of all such manufac- 
tured constitutions, — are so likewise by the two great witness- 
es that the history of the world brings forward, to shew the 
wisdom and permanence of organic constitutions, expanding and 
developing themselves along with the growth of the nation, and 
continuing the same, even as man is the same in manhood and 
old age as in childhood, notwithstanding the innumerable accre- 
tions which he has been continually assimilating and incorporat- 
ing with himself. These two great witnesses are Rome and 
England. Both indeed had to pass through divers critical tri- 
als, when the Avilfulness and selfishness of man tried to suspend 
and arrest the organic development of the Constitution: and 
Rome at last perisht, when that development seemed to have 
become a practical impossibility. But eacli is the witness for 
true pohtical wisdom, Rome in the ancient world, England in 
the modern. 1851. u. 



Nature is mighty. Art is mighty. Artifice is weak. For 
Nature is the work of a mightier power than man. Art is the 
work of man, under the guidance and inspiration of a mightier 
power. Artifice is the work of mere man, in the imbecility of 
his mimic understanding. u. 



Wiat is the use of it 2 is the first question askt in England 
by almost everybody about almost everything. When forein- 
ers, who have learnt English from our older writers, come 
amongst us, hearing such frequent enquiries after use, they 

I 

i 



20G 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



must fancy they have fallen among a set of usurers. No won- 
der so many of them have applied for loans. The only wonder, 
as we are not ^usurers, is how they got them. 

Still there are a few things, a husband for one's daughter, a 
Rubens, four horses, a cure of souls, — the use of which is 
never askt : probably because it is so evident. In those cases 
the first question, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, is, 
What are they ivorth ? The worth of a cure of souls ! 
miserable money-loving people ! whose very language is pros- 
tituted to avarice. Wealth is money: Fortune is money: 
Worth is money : and, had not God for once been beforehand 
with the world. Providence would have been money too. The 
worth of a cure of souls is Heaven or Hell, according as he 
who is appointed to it does his duty or neglects it. 

You want to double your riches, and without gambling or 
stockjobbing. Share it. Whether it be material or intellect- 
ual, its rapid increase will amaze you. What would the sun 
have been, had he folded himself up in darkness ? Surely he 
would have gone out. So would Socrates. 

This road to wealth seems to have been discovered some 
three thousand years ago. At least it was known to Hesiod, 
and has been recommended by him in the one precious line he 
has left us. But even he complains of the fools, who did not 
know that half is more than the whole. And ever since, 
though mankind have always been in full chase after riches, 
though they have not feared to follow Columbus and Gama in 
chase of it, though they have waded through blood, and crept 
through falsehood, and trampled on their own hearts, and been 
ready to ride on a broomstick, in chase of it, very few have 
ever taken this road, albeit the easiest, the shortest, and the 
surest. u. 



One of the first things a soldier has to do, is to harden him- 
self against heat and cold. He must enure himself to bear 
sudden and violent changes. In like manner they who enter 
into public life should begin by dulling their sensitiveness to 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



207 



praise and blame. lie who cannot turn his back on the one, 
and ftice the other, will probably be beguiled by his favorite, 
into letting his enemy come behind him, and wound him when 
off his guard. Let him keep a firm footing, and beware of 
being lifted up, remembering that this is the commonest trick 
by which wrestlers throw their antagonists. u. 

Gratification is distinct from happiness in the common appre- 
hension of mankind ; and so is selfishness from wisdom. But 
passion in its blindness disregards, or rather speaks as if it dis- 
regarded, the first distinction ; and sophists, taking advantage 
of this, confound the last. Their confusion however is worse 
confounded. For it is not every gratification that is selfish, in 
the ordinary acceptation of the term, which implies blame and 
sin ; but such only as is undue or inordinate, whether in kind or 
degree. Never was a man called selfish for quenching his 
thirst with water, where water was not scarce ; many a man 
has been justly, for drinking Champagne. The argument then, 
if unraveled into a syllogism, would hang together thus : 

Some gratifications are selfish : 

No gratification is happiness : 
therefore. 

All happiness is selfish. 
I am not surprised that these gentlemen speak ill of logic. 

Misers are the greatest spendthrifts : and spendthrifts often 
end in becoming the greatest misers. u. 

The principle gives birth to the rule : the motive may justify 
the exception. 

"When the Parisians set up a naked prostitute as the goddess 
of Reason, they can hardly have been aware what an apt type 
she afforded of their Reason, and indeed of all Reason, — if 
that divine name be not forfeited by such a traitorous act, — 
which turns away its face from heaven, and throws off its allegi- 
ance to the truth as it is in God. "When Reason has done this, 



208 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



it is stark naked, and ready to prostitute itself to every capri- 
cious lust, whether of the flesh, or of the spirit. One can nev- 
er repeat too often, that Reason, as it exists in man, is only our 
intellectual eye, and that, like the eye, to see, it needs light, — 
to see clearly and far, it needs the light of heaven. u. 

Entireness, illimitableness is indispensable to Faith. What 
we believe, we must believe wholly and without reserve; 
wherefore the only perfect and satisfying object of Faith is God. 
A Faith that sets bounds to itself, that will believe so much 
and no more, that will trust thus far and no further, is none. 
It is only Doubt taking a nap in an elbow chair. The husband, 
whose scepticism is prurient enough to contemplate the possibil- 
ity of his wife's proving false, riclily deserves that she should 
do so. r. 



Never put much confidence in such as put no confidence in 
others. A man prone to suspect evil is mostly looking in 
his neighbour for what he sees in himself. As to the pure 
all things are pure, even so to the impure all things are 
impure. u. 

Do you wish to find out a person's weak points ? Note the 
failings he has the quickest eye for in others. They may not 
be the very failings he is himself conscious of; but they will be 
their next-door neighours. No man keeps such a jealous look- 
out as a rival. u. 



In reading the Apostolical Epistles, we should bear in mind 
that they are not scientific treatises, armed at all points against 
carpers and misconceivers, but occasional letters, addrest to 
disciples, who, as the writer knew, were both able and in- 
clined to make due allowance for the latitude of epistolary 
expression. 

But is not this what the Socinians contend for ? 
If it were, I should have nothing to say against them. What 
I object to in them is their making, not due allowances, but un- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



209 



due, — allowances discountenanced by the plainest passages as 
well as the uniform tenour of the Sacred Writings, by the whole 
analogy, and, so far as we dare judge of them, the prompting 
principles of Revelation. 

But how shall we discern the due from the undue ? 

As we discern everything else : by the honest use of a culti- 
vated understanding. If we have not banisht the Holy Spirit 
by shghts and excesses, if we have fed His lamp in our hearts 
with prayer, if we have improved and strengthened our facul- 
ties by education and exercise, and then sit down to study the 
Bible with enquiring and teachable minds, we need not doubt 
of discovering its meaning; not indeed purely, — for where 
find an intellect so colourless as never to tinge the light that 
falls upon it ? not wholly, — for how fathom the ocean of God's 
word? but with such accuracy, and in such degree, as shall 
suffice for the uses of our spiritual life. If we have neglected 
this previous discipline, if we take up the book with stupid or 
ignorant, lazy or negligent, arrogant or unclean and do-no-good 
hands, we shall in running through its pages stumble on many 
things dark and startling, on many things which, aggravated 
by presumptuous heedlessness, might prove destructively of- 
fensive. 

What then are the poor to do ? 

They must avail themselves of oral instruction, have recourse, 
so far as may be, to written helps, and follow the guidance of 
God's ministers. But suitable faculties seem indispensable. 
Let a man be ever so pious and sincere, if blind, he could not 
see the book, nor, if unlettered, read it, nor, if ignorant of Eng- 
lish, know the meaning of the words, nor, if half-witted, com- 
prehend the sentences. Why suppose that the intellectual 
hindrances to mastering the book end here ? especially when 
we allow the existence of moral hindrances, and are aware that 
they combine with the intellectual in unascertainable and indef- 
inite proportions ; if they do not rather form their essence, or at 
least their germ. You grant that carelessness and impatience 
\ may hide the meaning of the book from us : you should be sure 
I that stupidity does not spring from carelessness, nor bad logic 

N- 



210 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



from impatience, before you decide so confidently that stupidity 
and bad logic cannot. 

Search the Scriptures, said Christ. " Non dixit legite, sed 
scrutamini (as Chrysostom, quoted by Jeremy Taylor, On the 
Minister's Duty, Serin. 11. Vol. \\. p. 520, observes on this 
text), quia oportet profundius effodere, ut quae alte delitescant 
invenire possimus. The Jews have a saying : qui non advertit 
quod supra et infra in scriptoribus legitur, is pervertit verba 
Dei viventis. He that will understand God's meaning, must 
look above, and below, and round about." Now to look at 
things below the surface, we must dig down to them. They 
who omit this, from whatever cause, be it the sluggishness of 
their will, or merely the bluntness of their instrument, — for 
this question, though important in judging of the workman, can- 
not affect the accomplishment of the w^ork, — will never gain 
the buried treasure. Those on the other hand who dig as they 
are taught to do, will reach it in time, if they faint not. The 
number of demi-semi-Christians in the world no more estab- 
lishes the contrary, than the number of drunkards in the world 
establishes the impossibility of keeping sober. 

But, as Taylor remarks in the same Sermon (p. 509), 
" though many precious things are reserved for them who 
dig deep and search wisely, medicinal plants, and corn, and 
grass, things fit for food and physic, are to be had in every 
field." The great duties of a Christian are so plainly exprest, 
that they who run may read, and that all who listen may un- 
derstand them : expounders of doctrine are appointed by the 
Church : and in every case, to every one who truly seeks, suf- 
ficient will be given for his salvation. 

How deeply rooted must unbelief be in our hearts, when we 
are surprised to find our prayers answered ! instead of feeling 
sure that they will be so, if they are only offered up in faith, 
and are in accord with the will of God. ^« 



Moses, when the battle was raging, held up his arms to 
heaven, with the rod of God in his hand ; and thus Israel 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



211 



overcame Amalek. Hence a notion got abroad through the 
world, that in times of difficulty or danger the mightiest weapon 
man can make use of is prayer. But Moses felt his arms grow 
heavy ; and he was forced to call in Aaron and Hur to hold 
them up. In like manner do we all too readily weary of prayer, 
and feel it become a burthen, and let our hands drop ; and then 
Amalek prevails. 

Here however the wisdom of the eighteenth century has 
devised a substitute, at least for one of the cases in which our 
ancestors used to hold up their arms to heaven. Franklin has 
taught us to hold up iron bars to heaven, which have the ad- 
vantage of never growing weary, and under the guard of which 
we may feel sure that the storm will pass over without harming 
us. Besides they allow us to employ our hands to better pur- 
pose, in working, or eating, or fighting. 

Still there are sundry kinds of dangers, from which Frank- 
lin's conductors will not secure us : and against these, till the 
time when matter shall have utterly choked and stifled spirit, 
we still need the help of prayer. And as our flesh is so weak, 
that our prayers soon droop and become faint, unless they are 
upheld, Christ and the Holy Spirit vouchsafe to uphold our 
prayers, and to breathe the power of faith into them, so that 
they may mount heavenward, and to bear them up to the very 
Throne of Grace. u. 



All Religions, — for absolute Pantheism is none, — must of 
necessity be anthropomorphic. The idea of God must be 
adapted to the capacities of the human imagination. Chris- 
tianity differs from all other Religions in this, that its anthro- 
pomorphism is theopneustic. u. 

A weak mind sinks under prosperity, as well as under adver- 
sity. A strong and deep mind has two highest tides, — when 
the moon is at the full, and when there is no moon. u. 



What a pity it is that there are so many words ! When- 
ever one wants to say anything, tln-ee or four ways of saymg 



212 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



it run into one's head together; and one can't tell which to 
choose. It is as troublesome and puzzling as choosing a rib- 
bon ... or a husband. 

Now on a question of millinery, or of man-miUinery, I should 
be slow to venture an opinion. But style is a less intricate 
matter ; and with regard to the choice of words a clear and 
simple rule may be laid down, which can hardly be followed 
too punctually or too assiduously. First however, as it is a 
lady I am addressing, let me advise you to lessen your perplex- 
ities by restricting yourself to home manufactures. You may 
perhaps think it looks pretty to garnish your letters with such 
phrases as de tout mon cos.ur. ]S^ow with all my heart is really 
better English : the only advantage on the side of the other 
expression is its being less sincere. Whatever may be the su- 
periority of French silks, or French lace, English words sound 
fai' best from English lips : and, notwithstanding the example 
of Desdemona, one can seldom look with perfect complacency 
on the woman who gives up her heart to the son of another 
people. Man may leave country as well as father and mother : 
for action and thought find their objects everywhere. But 
must not feelings pine and droop, when cut off from the home 
and speech of their childhood ? 

As a general maxim however, when you come to a cross-road, 
you can hardly do better than go right ouAvard. You would 
do so involuntarily in speaking : do so likewise in writing. 
When you doubt between two words, choose the plainest, the 
commonest, the most idiomatic. Eschew fine words, as you 
would rouge : love simple ones, as you would native roses on 
your cheeks. Act as you might be disposed to do on your 
estate : employ such words as have the largest families, keep- 
ing clear of foundlings, and of those of which nobody can tell 
whence they come, unless he happens to be a scholar. 

This is just the advice which Ovid gives : 

!Mimda, sed e medio, con?iietaqtie verba, piiellae 
Scribite: sermouis publica fonna placet. 

To the same effect is the praise which Chaucer bestows on his 
Virginia : 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



213 



Though she were Avise as Pallas, dare I saiu 
Her facoude eke full womanly and plain. 
No contrefeted termes hadde she 
To semen wise : but after her degi'ee 
She spake ; and all her wordes more or less 
Sounding in virtue and in geutillesse. 

Exquisite examples of this true mother English are to be 
found in the speeches put by Shakspeare into the mouth of his 
female characters. " No fountain from its rocky cave E'er 
tript with foot so free : " never were its waters clearer, more 
transparent, or more musical. This indeed is the peculiar 
beauty of a feminine style, mimda verba, sed e medio, consue- 
taque, choice and elegant words, but such as are familiar in 
wehbred conversation, — words not used scientifically, or tech- 
nically, or etymologically, but according to their customary 
meaning. It is from being guided wholly by usage, undis- 
turbed by extraneous considerations, and from their character- 
istic fineness of discernment with regard to what is fit and ap- 
propriate, as well as from their being much less blown about by 
the vanity of writing cleverly or sententiously, that sensible, 
educated women have a simple grace of style rarely attained by 
men ; whose minds are ever and anon caught and entangled in 
briary thickets of hows, and hoiv-fars, and lohys, and ichy-nots ; 
and who often think much less what they have to say, than in 
what manner they shall say it. For it is in writing, as in 
painting and sculpture : let the artist adapt the attitudes of his 
figures to the feehng or action he wishes to express ; and, if his 
mind has been duly impregnated with the idea of the human 
form, without his intending it they will be graceful : whereas, 
if his first aim be to make them graceful, they are sure to be 
affected. 

When women however sally out of their proper sphere into 
that of objective, reflective authorship, — for which they are 
disqualified, not merely by their education and habits, but by 
the subjective character of their minds, by the predominance of 
their feelings over their intellect, and by their proneness to 
view everything in the light of their affections, — they often 
lose the simple graces of style, which within their own element 



214 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



belong to them. Here too may it be said, that " the woman 
who dehberates is lost." Going right, not from reflexion, not 
from calculating the reasons and consequences of each partic- 
ular step, but from impulse, — whether instinctive, or derivative 
from habit, or from principle, — when a woman distrusts her 
impulses, and appeals to her understanding, she is not unlikely 
to stray ; among other grounds, because this seldom happens, 
except when some wrong impulse is pulling against the right 
one, and when she wants an excuse for yielding to it. Men, in 
speech, as in action, may now and then forsake usage ; having 
previously explored the principles and laws, of which usage is 
ever an inadequate exponent. But no woman can safely defy 
usage, unless it be at the imperious, momentary call of some 
overpowering affection, the voice of which is its own sanction, 
and one with the voice of Duty. "When a woman deviates 
from usage, to comply with some rule which she supposes to 
run counter to it, she is apt to misapply the rule, from igno- 
rance of its grounds and of its limits. For rules, though useful 
mementoes to such as understand their principles, have no hght 
in themselves, and are mostly so framed as to fail us at the very 
moment of need. Clear enough when all is clear, they grow 
dim and go out when it is dark. 

The one which has just been proposed, of following your 
tongue when you are speaking, is a less sure guide for men 
than for women. Men's minds have so often crawled forth, 
more or less like a snail stretching out of its shell, from the 
region of impulse into that of reflexion, that they may need a 
secondary movement to resume their natural state, and replace 
the shell on their heads. With them what is nearest is often 
furthest off ; and what is furthest is nearest. The word which 
comes uppermost with them will frequently be the book-word, 
not the word of common sjDeecli ; especially if they are in the 
habit of public speaking, in which there is a strong temptation 
to make up for emptiness by sound, to give commonplace obser- 
vations an uncommon look by swelling them out with bloated 
diction, — to tack a string of conventional phrases to the tail of 
every proposition, in the hope that this will enable it to fly, — 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



215 



and to take care that the buckram thoughts, in whatever re- 
spects they may resemble Falstaff's men, shall at least have 
plenty of buckram to strut in. Therefore a man, when writing, 
may often find occasion to substitute a plainer word for that 
which had first occurred to him. But with him too the rule 
holds good, tliat the plainest word, by which he can express his 
meaning, is the best. The beginning of Plato's Republic is 
said to have been found in his tablets written over and over in 
a variety of ways : the regard for euphony, which was so strong 
in the Greeks, led him to try all those varieties of arrangement 
which the power of inversion in his language allowed of. Yet 
after all, the words, as they now stand, and the order of their 
arrangement, are the simplest he could have chosen ; and one 
can hardly conceive how they could have been other than they 
are. This is the secret of the matchless transparency of his 
style, through which we look at the thoughts exprest in it, 
standing as in the lucid distinctness given by a southern 
atmosphere ; so that only by a subsequent act of reflexion 
do we discern the exceeding beauty of the medium. Where- 
as in most writers the words scarcely let the thoughts peer 
dimly through, or at best deck them out in gorgeous hues, 
and draw attention to themselves, veihng what they ought to 
reveal. 

The principle I have been urging coincides with that of Cob- 
bett's great rule : " Never think of mending what you write : 
let it go : no patching. As your pen moves, bear constantly in 
mind that it is making strokes which are to remain for ever." 
The power of habit, he rightly observes, is in such things quite 
wonderful : and assuredly it is not merely our style that would 
be improved, if we bore constantly in mind that what we do is to 
last for ever. Did we but keep this conviction steadily before us, 
with regard to all our thoughts and feelings and words and pur- 
poses and deeds, then might we sooner learn to think and feel and 
speak and resolve and act as becomes the heirs of eternity. One 
of the main seats of our weakness lies in this very notion, that 
what we do at the moment cannot matter much; for that we shall 
be able to alter and mend and patch it just as we like by and by. 



216 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Cobbett's own writings are a proof of the excellence of his rule : 
what they may want in elegance, they more than make up for 
in strength. His indeed was a case in which it was especially 
applicable. Springing out of the lower orders, and living in 
familiar intercourse with them, he knew their language ; he 
knew the words which have power over the English people : he 
knew how those words must be wielded to strike home on their 
understandings and their hearts. His mind had never been 
tainted with the jargon of men of letters ; he had no frippery to 
throw off ere he could appear in his naked strength : he scorned 
flourishes and manoovres, and marcht straight with all his forces 
to the onset. 

In some measure akin to Cobbett's writings in style, though 
with differences resulting both from personal and national char- 
acter, are those of the honest and hearty German patriot, Arndt, 
which did such good service in kindhng and feeding the enthu- 
siasm during the war with France. He too was a child of the 
people, a peasant boy who used to feed his father's cows ; and 
his wings had not been dipt in the schools. So was Luther ; 
whom one can hardly conceive recalling and correcting a word, 
any more than one can conceive the sun recalling and correct- 
ing one of his rays, or the sea one of its waves. He who has 
a full quiver, does not pick up his arrows. If the first misses, 
he sends another and another after it. Forgetting what is be- 
hind, he presses onward. It is only in going through one's ex- 
ercise, that one retraces a false movement, and begins anew. 
To do so in battle would be to lose it. 

There is said indeed to be a manuscript of Luther's version 
of the first Psalm with a great number of interlineations and 
corrections. This however was a translation : and only when a 
man's thoughts issue from his own head and heart, can they 
come forth ready clad in the fittest words. A translator's aim 
is more complicated ; and all he can hope is to approximate 
nearer and nearer to it. For no language can ever be the com- 
plete counterpart of another : indeed no single word in any lan- 
guage can be the complete counterpart to a word in another 
language, so as to have exactly the same shades and varieties 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



217 



of meaning, and to be invested with the same associations. 
Hence a conscientious translator is perpetually drawn in oppo- 
site directions, from the wish to accomplish two incompatible 
objects, to give an exact representation of his original, and at 
the same time to make that representation an idiomatic one. 
Difficult as it often must needs be to express one's own mean- 
ing to one's wish, it is incomparably more difficult to express 
another man's, without making him say more or less than he 
intended. 

That the practice inculcated above has the highest of all 
sanctions, is proved by the Preface to the first edition of Shak- 
speare, where the editors say of him, " His mind and hand 
went together ; and what he thought, he uttered with that easi- 
ness, that we have scarce received from him a blot in his pa- 
pers." The same thing is true of the greatest master of style 
in our days : in the manuscripts of his exquisite Imaginary 
Conversations very few words have ever been altered : every 
, word was the right one from the first. I have also observed 
the same fact in Arnold's manuscripts, in which indeed, from 
the simple, easy flow of his style, one might sooner expect it. 
But Lieber tells us that Niebuhr also said to him, " Endeavour 
never to strike out anything of what you have once written 
down. Punish yourself by allowing once or twice something 
to pass, though you see you might give it better : it will accus- 
tom you to be more careful in future ; and you will not only 
save much time, but also think more correctly and distinctly. I 
hardly ever strike out or correct my writing, even in my dis- 
patches to the king. Persons who have never tried to write at 
once correctly, do not know how easy it is, provided your 
thoughts are clear and well arranged ; and they ought to be so 
before you put pen to paper." Thus a style, which appears 
most elaborate, and in which the thoughts would seem to have 
been subjected to a long process of condensation, may grow to 
be written almost spontaneously; as a person may learn to 
write the stiffest hand with considerable rapidity. Lieber how- 
I ever also cites the similar confession in Gibbon's Memoirs; 
which shews that this practice is no preservative from all the 
10 

I 



218 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



vices of affectation. For anything may become nature to man: 
the rare thing is to find a nature that is truly natural. u. 

Cesar's maxim, that you are to avoid an unusual word as you 
would a rock, is often quoted, especially by those who are just 
purposing to violate it. For this is one of the strange distor- 
tions of vanity, — which loves to magnify the understanding, at 
the cost of the will, — that people, when they are doing wrong, 
are fond of boasting that they know it to be wrong. Cesar 
himself however was a scrupulous observer of his own rule. A 
like straightforward plainness of speech characterizes the Eng- 
lish Cesar of our age, and is found, with an admixture of philo- 
sophical sweetness, in Xenophon. In truth simplicity is the 
soldierly style. The most manly of men coincide in this point 
with the most womanly of women. The latter think of the 
feelings they are to express ; the former, of the thoughts and 
purposes and actions ; neither, of the words. 

Not however that new words are altogether to be outlawed. 
What would language have been, had this principle been acted 
on from the first ? It must have been dwarft in the cradle. Did 
thoughts remain stationary, so might language : but they cannot 
be progressive without it. The only way in which a conception 
can become national property, is by being named. Hereby it is 
incorporated with the body of popular thought. Either a word 
already in use may have a more determinate meaning assigned 
to it : or a new word may be formed, according to the analogies 
of the language, by derivation or composition : or in a language 
in which the generative power is nearly extinct, a word may be 
adopted from some forein tongue which has already supplied it 
with similar terms. Only such words should be intelhgible at 
sight to the readers they are designed for. This is one great 
objection to the new Greek words which Mr Bentham scatters 
over his pages, side by side with his amorphous, tumble-to- 
pieces English ones, like Columbine dancing with Pantaloon. 
They want a note to explain what he meant them to mean, and 
are just such lifeless things as might be exj^ected from a man 
who grinds them out of his lexicon, — such dry chips as may 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



219 



drop from a writer whose mind is a dead hedge of abstractions ; 
whose chief talent moreover is that of a hedge, to intersect and 
partition off the field of knowledge. When words are thus 
brought in with a commentary at their heels, it is much as if a 
musician were to stop in the middle of a tune, and tell you what 
notes he is playing. 

To the last of the three classes just mentioned belongs the 
terminology of Science, which is almost wholly Greek. No 
language was ever so full of hfe as the Greek in its prime : and, 
as there have been instances of seeds which have retained their 
vital power for millennaries, the embers of life still linger about 
it ; so that two thousand years after, and a thousand miles off, 
Ave find it easier to grow Greek words than English. The plas- 
tic character of the language, affording unlimited facilities for 
composition, — and in such wise that its words really coalesce, 
and are not merely tackt together, — fits it for expressing the 
innumerable combinations, which it is the business of Science 
to detect. And as Science is altogether a cosmopolite, less con- 
nected than any other mode of intellectual action with the 
peculiarities of national character, — wherefore the eighteenth 
century, which confounded science with knowledge, set up the 
theory of cosmopolitism, — it is well that the vocabulary of 
Science should be common to all the nations that come and 
worship at its shrine. 

Of all words however the least vivacious are those coined by 
Science. It is only Poetry, and not Philosophy, that can make 
a Juliet. It is Poetry, the Imagination in one or other of its 
forms, that produces what has life in it. Eschylus, Shakspeare, 
Milton, are wordmakers. So are most humorists, Aristophanes, 
Rabelais, Swift, Sterne, Charles Lamb, Richter: only many of 
their words are merely fashioned sportively for a particular oc- 
casion, after some amusing analogy, without any thought of their 
becoming a permanent part of the language. The true criterion 
of the worth of a new word is its having such a familiar look, and 
bearing its meaning and the features of its kindred so visible in 
its face, that we hardly know whether it is not an old acquaint- 
ance. Then more especially is it likely to be genuine, when its 



220 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



author himself is scarcely conscious of its novelty. At all 
events it should not seem to be the fruit of study, but to spring 
spontaneously from the inspiration of the moment. 

The corruption of style does not lie in a writer's occasionally 
using an uncommon or a new word. On the contrary a mascu- 
line writer, who has been led to adopt a plain, simple style, not 
like women, by an instinctive delicacy of taste, but by a reflex 
act of judgement, and who has taken pleasure in visiting the 
sources of his native language, and in tracing its streams, will 
feel desirous at times to throw his seed also upon the waters : 
and he is the very person whose studies will best fit him for 
doing so. Even Cowper, whose letters are the pattern of pure, 
graceful, idiomatic English, does not hesitate to coin new words 
now and then. Such are, extra-foraneous, which, though he is 
so fond of it as to desire that it should be inserted in John- 
son's Dictionary, and to use it more than once (Vol. iv. p. 76, 
vi. 153, of Southey's Edition), is for common purposes a 
cumbrous substitute for oiit-of-doors, — a suhscalarian, "a man 
that sleeps under the stairs" (vi. 286), — an archdeaconism 
(iv. 228), — syllahlemongers (v. 23), — a joltation (v. 55), — 
caljless (v. 61), — secondhanded (v. 87), a word inaccurately 
formed, as according to analogy it should mean, not at second 
hand, hut having a second hand, — authorly (v. 96), — exspu- 
tory (v. 102), — returnable, Y\ke\y to return (v. 102), — trans- 
latorship (v. 253), — poetship (v. 313), — a midshipmanship 
("there's a word for you !" he exclaims, vi. 263), — man-mer- 
chandise (vi. 127), — Homer-conners (vi. 268), — walkahle 
(vi. 13), — seldomcy (vi. 228). I know not that any of these 
words is of much value. The last is suggested by an errone- 
ous analogy. "I hope none of my correspondents (he says) 
will measure my regard for them by the frequency, or rather 
seldomcy, of my epistles." A Latin termination is here sub- 
joined to a Saxon word, which such a termination very rarely 
fits : and two consonants are brought into juxtaposition, from 
which in our language they revolt. 

Some of these words may perhaps have been already in use, 
at least in speech, if not in writing. It would be both enter- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



221 



taining and instructive, were any one to collect the words in 
English invented by particular authors, and to explain the rea- 
sons which may either have occasioned or hindered their being 
incorporated with the body of the language. In some cases no 
want of the word has been felt: in others the formation has 
been incorrect, or unsupported by any familiar analogy. Learn- 
ing of itself indeed will never avail to make words : but in 
ages when the formative instinct is no longer vivid, judgement 
and knowledge are requisite to guide it. For the best and 
ablest writers are apt to err on this score, as Ave saw just now 
in the instance of seldomcy. Thus even Landor {Imaginary 
Convers. ii. 278) recommends the adoption of anidiomatic as 
an English word; though our language does not acknowledge 
the Greek negative prefix, except in words like anarchy^ intro- 
duced in their compound state, so that anidiomatical would 
exemplify itself; and though unidiomatic would clearly be a 
preferable form, which few writers would scruple to use, wheth- 
er authorized by precedent or no. Nor, I trust, will Coleridge's 
favorite word, esemplastic {Biographia Literaria, i. 157), to 
express the atoning or unifying power of the Imagination,, ever 
become current; for, like others of his Greek compounds, it 
violates the analogies of that language. Had such a word 
existed, it would be compounded of eiy iv TrXdrreiv, not, as he 
intended, of els iv rrXaTTeiv. On the other hand his word to 
desynonymize (Biog. Lit. i. 87) is a truly valuable one, as desig- 
nating a process very common in the history of language, and 
bringing a new thought into general circulation. A Latin 
preposition is indeed prefixt to a Greek theme: but such 
mixtures are inevitable in a composite language ; and this is 
sanctioned by the words dephlegmate and dephlogisticate : after 
the analogy of which I have ventured above (p. 153) to frame 
the word desophisticating. 

Few eminent writers, I believe, have not done more or less 
toward enriching their native tongue. Thus Rousseau, in one 
of his letters in defense of his Discourse on the Influence of the 
Arts and Sciences, vindicates his having hazarded the word 
investigation, on the ground that he had wisht "rendre un 



222 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



service a la langue, en essayant cl'y introduire un terme doux, 
harmonieux, dont le sens est deja connu, et qui n'a point de 
synonyme en fran^ais. C'est, je crois, toutes les conditions 
qu'on exige pour autoriser cette liberte salutaire." Sometimes 
too an author's bequests to his countrymen do not stay quietly 
at home, but travel from nation to nation, and become a perma- 
nent part of the language of mankind. What a loss would it 
be to the language of modern Europe, if Plato's word, idea, and 
Pythagorases, philosophy, with their families, were struck out 
of them ! It would be like striking out an eye ; and we should 
hardly know how to grope our way through the realms of 
thought without them. Again, when we read in Diogenes 
Laertius (iii. 24) that Plato 

fiaae, Koi aroix^lov, Koi dioKeKTiKrjv, koI TroLOTijra, Koi t5)v nepdrcov rrjv 
eniireBov TjTrKpdveiav, koi 6eov irpovoiav, we may see from this, 
watliout enquiring into the accuracy of each particular state- 
ment, what a powerful lever a well-chosen word may be for 
helping on the progress of thought, — how it may embody the 
results of long processes of meditation, and present those re- 
sults in a form in w^hich they may not only be apprehended at 
once by every person of intelligence, but may be used as mate- 
rials for ulterior speculations, like known quantities for the 
determination of unknown. Various instances of like pregnant 
words, in which great authors have embodied the results of 
their speculations, — of words " which assert a principle, while 
they appear merely to indicate a transient notion, preserving as 
well as expressing truths," — are pointed out in the great His- 
tory of the Inductive Sciejices, in which one of Bacon's worthi- 
est and most enlightened disciples has lately been tracing the 
progress of scientific discovery throughout the whole world of 
Nature. 

A far worse fault than that of occasionally introducing a new 
word, — which is not only allowable, but often necessary, as 
new thoughts keep continually rising above the national hori- 
zon, — is that of writing throughout in words alien from the 
speech of the people. Few writers are apter to fall into this 
fault, than those who deem it their post to watch and set up a 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



223 



bark at the first approach of a stranger. The gods in Homer 
now and then use a word different from that of ordinary men : 
but he who thinks to speak the language of the gods, by speak- 
ing one altogether remote from that of ordinary men, wHl only 
speak the language of the goblins. He is not a mystic, but a 
mystifier. u. 

There are three genial and generative periods in the history 
of language. 

The first, and far the most important, is that in which the 
great elementary processes are gone through: when the laws 
and form of the language are determined, and the body of the 
thoughts of a people, whether arising out of the depths of its 
own character, or awakened by the objects around it, fashion 
and find their appropriate utterance. This is a period of which 
little notice can be preserved. We are seldom able to watch 
the processes while they are working. In a primitive, homo- 
geneous language that working is over, before it comes forward 
in a substantial, permanent shape, and takes its seat in the halls 
of Literature : and even in a composite language, like our own, 
arising out of the confluence and fusion of two, we have scanty 
means for observing their mutual action upon each other. We 
see them flowing for a while side by side : then both vanish like 
the Rhine at Laufenburg : and anon the mingled streams start 
into sight again, though perhaps not quite thoroughly blended, 
but each in a manner preserving a distinct current for a time, 
as the Rhone and Saone do at their junction. In this stage a 
language is rich in expressions for outward objects, and for 
simple feelings and actions, but contains few abstract terms, and 
not many compound words, ecscept such as denote obvious com- 
binations of frequent occurrence. The laws and principles of 
such compositions however are already establisht: and here 
and there instances are found of some of the simplest abstract 
terms; after the analogy of which others are subsequently 
framed, according to the growing demands of reflexion. Such 
is the state of our own language in the age of Chaucer : such 
is that of the German in the Nibelungen-Lay ; and that of the 



224 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Greek in Hesiod and in Homer : in the latter of whom how- 
ever we already hear the snorting of the horses that are draw- 
ing on the car of Apollo, and see the sparks that flash up 
beneath their feet, as they rush along the pavement of heaven. 

Thus far a language has very little that is arbitrary in it, 
very little betokening the conscious power and action of man. 
It owes its origin, not to the thoughts and the will of individu- 
als, but to an instinct actuating a whole people : it expresses 
what is common to them all : it has sprung out of their univer- 
sal wants, and lives in their hearts. But after a while an intel- i 
lectual aristocracy come forward, and frame a new language of 
their own. The princes and lords of thought shoot forth their 
winged words into regions beyond the scan of the people. 
They require a gold coinage, in addition to the common cur- 
rency. This is avowed by Sir Thomas Brown in his Preface. 
" Nor have we addrest our pen or style to the people, (whom 
books do not redress, and are this way incapable of reduction,) 
but to the knowing and leading part of learning ; as well un- 
derstanding, — except they be watered from higher regions and 
fructifying meteors of knowledge, these weeds must lose their 
alimental sap, and wither of themselves." Tlie Imagination, 
finding out its powers and its office, and feeling its freedom, 
begins to fashion and mould and combine things according to 
its own laws. It is no longer content to reflect the outward 
world and its forms just as it has received them, with such 
modifications and associations alone as have been bestowed on 
them in the national mythology. It seizes the elements both of 
outward nature and of human, and mixes them up in its cruci- 
ble, and bakes them anew in its furnace. It discerns within 
itself, that there are other shapes and visions of grandeur and 
beauty, beside those which roll before the eye, — that there are 
other sympathies, and deeper harmonies and discords : and for 
this its new creation it endeavours to devise fitting symbols in 
words. This is the age of genial power in poetry, and of a 
luxuriant richness in language ; the age of Eschylus and Aris- 
tophanes ; the age of Ennius and Lucretius, — who however 
must be measured by the Roman scale ; the age of Shakspeare 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



225 



and Milton. It may be termed the heroic age of language, 
coming after its golden age, during which, from the unbroken 
unity of life, there was no call or room for heroes. Custom 
has not yet markt out the limits within which the plastic powers 
of the language must be restrained: and they who feel their 
own strength, and that of their weapon, fancy there is nothing 
they may not achieve with it. Of the new words formed in 
this age, many find an echo long after amid the hights of lit- 
erature ; some are so peculiar, they can fit no place except the 
one they were made for ; many fall to the ground and are for- 
gotten, when the sithe of summer mows off the rich bloom of 
spring. 

The third great period in the history of a language is that of 
its development as an instrument of reason and reflexion. 
This is the age of verbal substantives, and of abstract deriva- 
tives from adjectives, formed, in a homogeneous language, after 
the analogy of earlier examples, but multiplied far beyond what 
had sufficed for a simpler, less speculative generation. The 
dawn of this age we see struggling through the darkness in 
Thucydides ; the difficulties of whose style arise in great meas- 
ure from his efforts to express thoughts so profound and far- 
stretching in a language scarcely adapted as yet to such pur- 
poses. For, though potentially it had an indefinite wealth in 
general terms, that wealth was still lying for the most part in 
the mine : and the simple epical accumulation of sentences, by 
means of connective particles; was only beginning to give way 
to a compacter, more, logical structure, by the particles of cau- 
sality . and modality. In England, as indeed throughout the 
whole of modern Europe, the order assigned by Nature for the 
successive unfolding of the various intellectual powers, in na- 
tions as well as individuals, — an order which, unless disturbed 
by extraneous causes, would needs be far more perceptible, as 
all general laws are, in an aggregate than in a single unit, — 
was in some degree altered by the influx of the traditional 
knowledge amast by prior ages. That knowledge, acting more 
powerfully, and with more certain benefit, on the reasoning fac- 
ulties than on the imaginative, accelerated the growth of the 




22G 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



former, and brought them to an earlier maturity ; a result owing 
mainly to the existence of a large class, who, being the chief 
depositaries of knowledge, were specially led by their profes- 
sion, and by the critical and stirring circumstances of the times, 
to a dihgent pursuit of all studies concerning the moral and 
spiritual nature of man. Hence the philosophical cultivation 
of our language coincided with its poetical cultivation : and this 
prematurity was the more easily attainable, inasmuch as the 
mass of our philosophical words were not of home growth, but 
imported ready-grown from abroad ; so that, like oranges, they 
might be in season along with primroses and violets. Yet the 
natural order was so far upheld, that, while the great age of our 
poetry is comprised in the last quarter of the sixteenth, and 
the first quarter of the seventeenth century, the great age of 
our philosophy and theology reaches down till near the close of 
the latter. Milton stands alone, and forms a link between the 
two. 

When a nation reaches, its noon however, the colours of 
objects lose much of their brightness ; and even their forms 
and masses stand out less boldly and strikingly. It occupies 
itself rather in examining and analysing their details. Find- 
ing itself already rich, it lives on its capital, instead of making 
fresh ventures to increase it, and boasts that this is the only 
rational, gentlemanly way of living. The superabundant activ- 
ity, which it will not employ in anything positive, finds a vent 
in negativeness, — in denying that any previous state of soci- 
ety was comparable to its own, and in issuing peremptory 
vetoes against all who would try to raise it higher. This is 
the age when an academy will lay down laws dictatorially, and 
proclaim what may be said, and what must not, what may be 
thought, and Avhat must not, — the age when men will scoff at 
the madness of Xerxes, yet themselves try to fiing their chains 
over the ever-rolling, irrepressible ocean of thought. Nay, they 
will scoop out a mimic sea in their pleasure-ground, and make 
it ripple and bubble, and spout up prettily into the air, and then 
fancy that they are taming the Atlantic ; which however keeps 
advancing upon them, until it sweeps them away with their 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



227 



toys. The interdict against every new word or expression 
during the century previous to the Revolution in France was 
only one chapter of the interdict which society then enacted 
against everything genial : and here too that restlessness, whicli 
' can never be wholly allayed, became negative ; and all that was 
genial was in sin. The dull flat of the Henriade abutted on the 
foaming hellpool of the Pucelle. 

The futility of all attempts to check the growth of a lan- 
guage, so long at least as a nation continues to exercise any 
activity even in the lower departments of thought, is proved by 
the successive editions of the Dictionary publisht by the French 
Academy. Not content with crushing and stifling freedom in 
the State, Richelieu's ambition aimed at becoming autocrat of 
the French language. He would have had no word uttered 
throughout the realm, until he had countersigned it. But an- 
cient usage and the wants of progressive civilization were too 
mighty for him. Every time the Academy have issued their 
Dictionary afresh, they have found themselves compelled to 
admit a number of new words into their censorial register: 
and in the last fifty years more especially a vast influx has 
taken place. If we look into their modern writers, even into 
those who, like Chateaubriand, while they acknowledge the 
power of the present, still retain a reverent allegiance to the 
past, we find new words ever sprouting up : and the popular 
literature of la jeune France, of those who are the minions, 
deeming themselves the lords, of the present, seems in language 
and style, as well as in morals, to bear the character of slavery 
that has burst its bonds, to be as it were an insurrection of in- 
tellectual negroes, rioting in the licence of a lawless, fetterless 
will. u. 



That in writing Latin no word should be used, unless sanc- 
tioned by the authority of Cicero, or of tlie Augustan age, is, I 
believe, a purely modern notion, — and an utterly absurd one, 
if extended to anything else than a scholastic exercise. For 
Cicero first taught Philosophy to talk with elegance in Latin ; 
and in doing so he often went round the mark, rather than 



228 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



straight to it : whereas the fitting of a language to be an instru- 
ment of reflective and siDeculative thought must be the work of 
many minds, and of more than one generation. A number of 
new ideas were drawn forth by the disciphne of adversity dur- 
ing the first century of the empire. Repelled from outward 
objects, which till then had been all in all to the Romans, men 
turned their eyes inward, and explored the depths of their own 
nature, if so be they might discover something there that would 
stand firm against the shock and amid the ruin of the world ; 
while all forms of evil were shooting up in loathsome enormity 
on every side. Hence the writers in the days of Nero, and 
those in the days of Trajan, had much to say, and said much, 
that had never entered into the minds of their forefathers. In 
the latter ages of Roman literature attempts were made to re- 
vive many antiquated words : but no life could be restored to 
them ; and they merely lie like the bones of the dead around a 
decaying body. For the regeneration of a language can never 
be genuine and lasting, except so far as it goes along with a re- 
generation of the national mind : whereas the Roman mind was 
dying away, and had no longer the power of incorporating the 
new regions of thought thrown open to it. A flood of barba- 
risms rusht in : Christianity came, with its host of spiritualities : 
all the mysteries of man's nature were to find utterance in 
Latin, which had always been better fitted for the forum than 
for the schools. It became the language of the learned, when 
learning was unfortunately cut off from communion with actual 
life, and when the past merely lay as a huge, shapeless shadow 
spread out over the germs of the future. Yet, so indispensable 
is the power of producing new words to a language, when it is 
applied to any practical use, Latin, even after it had ceast to be 
spoken, still retained a sort of life, like that which lingers in 
the bark of a hollow tree long after its core has mouldered 
away : and still for centuries it kept on putting forth a few 
fresh leaves. ^• 

A sort of Enghsh has been very prevalent during the last 
hundred years, in which the sentences have a meaning, but the 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



229 



words have little or none. As in a middling landscape the gen- 
eral outlines may be correct, and the forms distinguishable, 
while the details are hazy and indefinite and confused ; so here 
the abstract proposition designed to be exprest is so ; but hardly 
a word is used for which half a dozen synonyms might not have 
stood equally well : whereas the test of a good style, as Cole- 
ridge observes {Biog. Lit ii. 162), is « its untranslatableness in 
words of the same language, without injury to the meaning." 
This may be called Scotch English ; not as being exclusively 
the property of our northern brethren ; but because the cele- 
brated Scotch writers of the last century are in the first rank 
of those who have emboweled the substantial, roast-beef and 
plum-pudding English of our forefathers. Their precedence in 
this respect is intimately connected with their having been our 
principal writers on metaphysical subjects since the days of 
Locke and Shaftesbury and Thomas Burnet and Berkeley and 
Butler. For metaphysical writers, especially when they belong 
to a school, and draw their principles from their master's cistern 
through conduit after conduit, instead of going to the well of 
Nature, are very apt to give us vapid water instead of fresh. 
Attaching little importance to anything but absti^actions, and 
being almost without an eye, except for colourless shadows, 
they merge whatever is individual in that which is merely 
generic, and let this living universe of infinite variety drop out 
of sight in the menstruum of a technical phraseology. They 
lose the sent in the cry, but keep on yelping without finding out 
their loss : not a few too join in the cry, without having ever 
caught the sent. How far this will go, may be seen in the dead 
language of the Schoolmen, who often deal with their words just 
as if they were so many counters, the rust having eaten away 
every atom of the original impress. In like manner, when the 
dry rot gets into the house of a German philosopher, his disciples 
pick up handfuls of the dust, and fancy it will serve instead of 
timbers. Even Greek, notwithstanding the vivacity both of the 
people and the language, lost much of its life and grace in the 
hands of the later philosophers. Accordingly this Scotch Eng- 
lish is the usual style of our writers on speculative subjects. 



230 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



Opposite to this, and almost the converse of it, is Irish Eng- 
lish ; in which every word taken by itself means, or is meant 
to mean something ; but he who looks for any meaning in a 
sentence, might as well look for a green field in St. Gileses. 
Every Irishman, the saying goes, has a potato in his head : 
many, I think, must have a whole crop of them. At least the 
words of their orators are wont to roll out just like so many po- 
tatoes from the mouth of a sack, round, and knobby, and rum- 
bling, and pothering, and incoherent. This style too is common 
nowadays, especially that less kindly, and therefore less Irish 
modification of it, where the potatoes become prickly, and every 
word must be smart, and every syllable must have its point, if 
not its sting. No style is so well suited to scribblers for maga- 
zines and journals, and other like manufactures of squibs wdiich 
are to explode at once, and which, if they did not crack and 
flash, would vanish without anybody's heeding them. 

What then is English Enghsh ? It is the combination of the 
two ; not that vulgar combination in Avliich they would neutral- 
ize, but that in which they strengthen and give effect to each 
other ; where the unity of the whole is not disturbed by the 
elaborate thrusting forward of the parts, as that of a Dutch 
picture is often by a herring or an onion, a silk-gown or a rut ; 
nor is the canvas daubed over with slovenly haste to fill up the 
outline, as in many French and later Italian and Flemish pic- 
tures ; but where, as in the works of Raphael and Claude, and 
of their common mistress. Nature, well-defined and beautiful 
parts unite to make up a well-defined and beautiful whole. 
This, like all good things, all such good things at least as are 
the products of human labor and thought, is rare : but it is still 
to be found among us. The exquisite purity of Wordsworth's 
English has often been acknowledged. An author in whose 
pages the combination is almost always realized, and many of 
whose sentences are like crystals, each separate word in them 
being itself a lucid crystal, has been quoted several times above. 
And everybody has seen the writings of another, who may con- 
vince the most desponding worshiper of bygone excellence, that 
our language has not yet been so diluted and enervated, but 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



231 



Swift, were he living in these days, would still find plain words 
to talk plain sense in. Nor do they stand alone. In this at 
least we may boast with Sthenelus, that we are better than our 
fathers : only they who indulge in such a boast, should remind 
themselves of their duty, by following it up with Hector's 
prayer, that our children may be much better than we are. 
Southey's writings, in style, as in other respects, have almost 
every merit except the highest. Arnold's style is worthy of 
his manly understanding, and the noble simplicity of his char- 
acter. And the new History of Greece is the antipode to its 
predecessor in this quality, no less than in every other. — 
1836. u. 



A word which has no precise meaning, will poorly fulfil its 
office of being a sign and guide of thought : and if it be con- 
nected with matters interesting to the feelings, or of practical 
moment, it may easily become mischievous. Now in a lan- 
guage like ours, in which the abstract terms are mostly imported 
from abroad, such terms, when they get into general circulation, 
are especially liable to be misunderstood and perverted ; inas- 
much as few can have any distinct conception what their mean- 
ing really is, or how they came by it. Having neither tap- 
roots, nor lateral roots, they are easily shaken and driven out 
of line ; and one gust may blow them on one side, another on 
another side. Hence arises a confusion of tongues, even within 
the pale of the same language ; and this breeds a confusion of 
thoughts. Of all classes of paralogisms the most copious is that 
where a word, used in one sense in the premiss, slips another 
"sense into the conclusion. 

For instance, no small part of the blunders made by modern 
theorizers on education may be traced to their ignorance or 
forgetfulness that education is something more than instruction, 
and that instruction is only the most prominent part of it, — 
but the part which requires the least care, the least thought, 
and is practically of the least importance. Nor is this errour 
confined to theorizers : it has crept into every family. Most 
parents, of whatsoever rank or condition, fancy they have done 



232 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



all they need do for the education of their children, when they 
have had them taught such things as custom requires that per- 
sons of their class should learn : although with a view to the 
formation of character, the main end and object of education, it 
would be almost as reasonable to read a treatise on botany to a 
flower-bed, under a notion of making the plants grow and blos- 
som. Nay, even those who set themselves to instruct youth, 
too often forget that their aim should be to unfold and discipline 
and strengthen the minds of their pupils, to inspire them with a 
love of knowledge, and to improve their faculties for acquiring 
it, and not merely to load and stuff them with a certain ready- 
made quantity of knowledge ; which is only power, when it is 
living, firmly grounded, reproducible, and expansive. 

So again there is a tribe of errours, both speculative and 
practical, which have arisen from the mistaking of Administra- 
tion for Government, and the confounding of their appropriate 
l^rovinces and functions. In our country the Ministry have 
long been vulgarly termed the Government; and the Prime 
Minister is strangely misnamed the head of the Government ; 
although they have no constitutional existence, and are there- 
fore removable at the pleasure of a soverein or a parliament : 
so that, were they indeed the Government, and not merely the 
creatures and agents of a more permanent body, we should be 
the sport of chance and caprice, as has ever happened to a 
people when fallen under a doulocracy. Yet, as they have 
usurpt the name, so have they in great measure the executive 
part of the office. Thus it has come to pass that, from the 
Land's End to John of Groat's House, scarcely a man any 
longer remembers that the business of governors is to govern. 
Above all have those who call themselves the Government for- 
gotten this, persuading themselves that their duty is to be the 
servants, or rather the slaves, of circumstances and of public 
opinion. The divine exhortation, — He that icould he chief 
among you, let him he your servant, that is, by his own will and 
deed, — whereby we are called to follow the example of Him 
who came not to be ministered to, but to minister, — is popu- 
larly misread after the Jewish fashion, — Make him your ser- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



233 



vant, yea, your slave, and give him the slave's punishment of the 
cross. Tlie centralizing tendency, which rightly belongs to 
Government, and which has been extended during the last half 
century to all branches of Administration, both on the Conti- 
nent, and latterly, after an example rather to have been shunned 
than followed, in England, is another instance of the same per- 
version. As a government is one, and should embrace all its 
subjects with its protecting arms, so it has been thought expedi- 
ent that the rule of uniformity, the substitute of the understand- 
ing for the principle of unity, should be carried through all 
parts of the State, and that the administration should have a 
hand, or at least a finger, in every man's business. In specula- 
tion too this leads to very erroneous judgements concerning 
countries and times in which juster views on the distinctive na- 
ture of Government and Administration prevailed. It must be 
owing to this general confusion, that in the recent ingenious 
and thoughtful Essay 0?i the Attributes of a Statesma?i, though 
by a writer who mostly evinces the clearness of his understand- 
ing by the ■ correctness of his language, the Statesman's real 
characteristics and duties are scarcely toucht upon: and he 
who ought to be the man of the State, whose eyes should be 
fixt on the State, and whose mind and heart should be full of it, 
shrinks up into the holder of a ministerial office. 

No less general, and far more mischievous, is another delu- 
sion, by which the same word, ministry, is confounded with the 
Church. He who enters into the ministry of the Church, is 
said to go into the Church, as though he were not in it before : 
the body of the ministers too, the Clergy, are commonly called 
the Church, and, by a very unfortunate, but inevitable conse- 
quence, are frequently lookt upon as forming, not merely a part, 
but the whole church. Hence politically the interests of the 
Church are deemed to be separate from those of the State ; 
and the Church is accounted a portion of the State : wdiereas it 
should be coextensive and coincident therewith ; nay, should be 
the State itself spiritualized, under a higher relation, and in a 
higher power. Hence too in ordinary life the still greater evil, 
that the more peculiar duties of the Christian profession, as dis- 



234 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



tinct from those enjoined by human ethics, are held to be in- 
cumbent on the Clergy alone : whereby their labours are de- 
prived of help which they might otherwise receive, and which 
they greatly need. Indeed they themselves are far too ready 
to monopolize their office, and to regard all interference of the 
Laity in spiritual or ecclesiastical matters as an impertinent 
intrusion. On the other hand the Laity, instead of being in- 
vited and encouraged to deem themselves integral members of 
the Church, and sharers in all the blessed duties of Christian 
fellowship, are led to fancy that these are things in which they 
have no concern, that all they have to do with the Church is to 
go on a Sunday to the building which bears its name, and that, 
if they only bring themselves to listen, they may leave it to the 
preacher to follow his own exhortations. 

I am not contending that in any of these instances the per- 
version in the meaning of the words has been the sole, or even 
the main source of the corresponding practical errour. Rather 
has the practical errour given birth to the verbal. It is the 
heart that misleads the head in the first instance nine times, for 
once that the head misleads the heart. Still errour, as well as 
truth, when it is stampt in words, gains currency, and diffuses 
and propagates itself, and becomes inveterate, and almost ine- 
radicable. All that large and well-meaning class, who swell the 
train of public opinion, and who, without energy to do right on 
their own bottom, would often be loth to do what they recog- 
nised to be wrong, are apt to be the lackies of words, and will 
follow the blind more readily than the seeing. On the other 
hand, in proportion as every word is the distinct, determinate 
sign of the conception it stands for, does tbat conception form 
part and parcel of the nation's knowledge. Now a language 
will often be wiser, not merely than the vulgar, but even than 
the wisest of those who speak it. Being like amber in its effi- 
cacy to circulate the electric spirit of truth, it is also like amber 
in embalming and preserving the relics of ancient wisdom, 
although one is not seldom puzzled to decipher its contents. 
Sometimes it locks up truths, which were once well known, 
but which in the course of ages have past out of sight and been 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



235 



forgotten. In other cases it holds the germs of truths, of wliich, 
though they were never plainly discerned, the genius of its 
framcrs caught a glimpse in a happy moment of divination. A 
meditative man cannot refrain from wonder, when he digs down 
to the deep thought lying at .the root of many a metaphorical 
term, employed for the designation of spiritual things, even of 
those with regard to which professing philosophers have blun- 
dered grossly : and often it would seem as though rays of truths, 
which were still below the intellectual horizon, had dawned upon 
the Imagination as it Avas looking up to heaven. Hence they 
who feel an inward call to teach and enlighten their country- 
men, should deem it an important part of their duty to draw out 
the stores of thought which are already latent in their native 
language, to purify it from the corruptions which Time brings 
upon all things, and from which language has no exemption, and 
to endeavour to give distinctness and precision to whatever in 
it is confused, or obscure, or dimly seen. 

And they who have been studious thus to purify their native 
tongue, may also try to enrich it. AYhen any new conception 
stands out so broadly and singly as to give it a claim for having 
a special sign to denote it, — if no word for the purpose can be 
found in the extant vocabulary of the language, no old word, 
which, with a slight cllnamen given to its meaning, will answer 
the purpose, — they may frame a new one. But he who does 
not know how to prize the inheritance his ancestors have be- 
queathed to him, will hardly better or enlarge it. A man should 
love and venerate his native language, as the first of his bene- 
factors, as the awakener and stirrer of all his thoughts, the frame 
and mould and rule of his spiritual being, as the great bond and 
medium of intercourse with his fellows, as the mirror in which 
he sees his own nature, and without which he could not even 
commune with himself, as the image in which the wisdom of 
God has chosen to reveal itself to him. He who thus thinks of 
his native language will never touch it without reverence. Yet 
his reverence will not withhold, but rather encourage him to do 
what he can to purify and improve it. Of this duty no Eng- 
lishman in our times has shewn himself so well aware as Cole- 



/ 



236 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



ridge : which of itself is a proof tliat he possest some of the 
most important elements of the philosophical mind. Nor were 
his exertions in this way unsuccessful. Several words that he 
revived, some that he coined, are now become current, at least 
among writers on speculative subjects : and many are the terms 
in our philosophical vocabulary, which a while back were scat- 
tered about promiscuously, as if they all stood for pretty much 
the same thing, but which he has stampt afresh, so that people 
begin to have some notion of their meaning. Valuable contri- 
butions toward the same end are also to be found in the writings 
of Mr De Quincey; whose clear and subtile understanding, 
combined as it is with extensive and accurate learning, fits him 
above most men for such investigations. — 1836. u. 

A statesman, we are told, should follow public opinion. Doubt- 
less ... as a coachman follows his horses ; having firm hold on 
the reins, and guiding them. 

Suppose one's horse runs away, what is one to do ? 
Fling the bridle on his neck, to be sure : and then you will 
be fit to be prime minister of England. 
But the horse might throw me. 

That too would be mob-like. They are fond of trampling on 
those who have bent and cringed to them. — 1836. u. 



Ours till lately was a government of maxims, and perhaps is 
so in great measure still. The economists want to substitute a 
despotism of systems. But who, until the coming of Christ's 
Kingdom, can hope to see a government of principles ? 

When a ship has run aground, the boats take her in tow. Is 
not this pretty much the condition of our government, perhaps 
of most governments nowadays ? The art of governing, 
even in the sense of steering a state, Avill soon be reckoned 
among the lost arts, along with architecture, sacred music, 
sculpture, historical painting, and epic and dramatic poetry. — 
1836. u. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



237 



If a government is to stand a storm, it should have a strong 
anchorage ; and that is only to be found in the past. Custom 
attaches men in the long run, even more than personal affec- 
tion, and far more than the clearest conviction ; as we see, 
among many other proofs, in the difficulty of breaking off a 
bad habit, however bad we may acknowledge and deeply feel 
it to be. 

The power of ancestral institutions has been strikingly mani- 
fested of late, on the one hand, in the unwillingness which the 
main body even of our Reformers, — in spite of party zeal, in 
spite of the charms of rashness and presumption, in spite of the 
fascination exercised by the love of destroying, and of rebuild- 
ing a new edifice of our own creation, in spite of the delusions 
of false theories, — have shewn to assail the fundamental prin- 
ciples of the Constitution. On the other hand the same power 
has been evinced by the rapidity with which the feeling of the 
nation has been resuming its old level, notwithstanding what has 
been done to shake and pervert it, not merely by temporary 
excitements, but by the enormous changes in the distribution of 
wealth, and by the hordes of human beings that have swarmed 
wherever Commerce has sounded her bell. 

Does any one wish to see the converse, how soon the births 
of yesterday grow rotten, and send up a stench in the nostrils 
of a whole people ? There is no necessity to cast our eyes 
back on the ghastly pantomime exhibited in France, when con- 
stitution followed constitution, each gaudier and flimsier and 
more applauded and more detested than its predecessors. Alas ! 
we are witnesses of a similar spectacle at home, where friend 
and foe are united in condemning and revihng what half a dozen 
years back was cried up as a marvellous structure of pohtical 
wisdom, that was to be the glory and the bulwark of England 
for ages. 

This is the curse which waits on man's wilfulness. Of our 
own works we soon grow weary : today we worship, tomorrow 
we loathe them. The laws we have imposed on ourselves, 
knowing how baseless and strengthless they are, we are impa- 
tient to throw off: and then we are glad to bow even to a yoke 



238 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



of iron, if it will but deliver us from the misery of being our 
own masters. — 1836. u. 

Thrift is the best means of thriving. This is one of the 
truths that force themselves on the understanding of very early 
ao-es, when it is almost the only means : and few truths are such 
favorites with that selfish, housewifely shrewdness, which has 
ever been the chief parent and retailer of proverbs. Hence 
there is no lack of such sayings as, A pin a-day is a groat 
a-year. Take care of the pence ; and the pounds will take care 
of themselves. 

Perhaps the former of these saws, which bears such strongly 
markt features of homelier times, may be out of date in these 
days of inordinate gains, and still more inordinate desires; 
when it seems as though nobody could be satisfied, until he has 
dug up the earth, and drunk up the sea, and outgallopt the sun. 
Many now are so insensible to the inestimable value of a reg- 
ular increase, however slow, that they would probably cry out 
scornfully, A fig for your groat ! Would you have me he at the 
trouble of picking up and laying hy a pin a-day, for the sake of 
being a groat the richer at the end of the year ? 

Still both these maxims, taken in their true spirit, are 
admirable prudential rules for the whole of our housekeeping 
through life. Nor is their usefulness limited to the purse. 
That still more valuable portion of our property, our time, 
stands equally in need of good husbandry. It is only by mak- 
ing much of our minutes, that we can make much of our days 
and years. Every stitch that is let down may force us to 
unravel a score. 

Moreover, in the intercourse of social life, it is by little acts 
of watchful kindness, recurring daily and hourly, — and oppor- 
tunities of doing kindnesses, if sought for, are for ever starting 
up, — it is by words, by tones, by gestures, by looks, that affec- 
tion is won and preserved. He who neglects these trifles, yet 
boasts that, whenever a great sacrifice is called for, he shall be 
ready to make it, will rarely be loved. The likelihood is, he 
will not make it : and if he does, it will be much rather for his 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



239 



own sake, than for his neighbour's. Many j^ersons indeed are 
said to be penny-wise and pound-foolish : but they who are 
penny-foolish will hardly be pound-wise ; although selfish 
vanity may now and then for a moment get the better of self- 
ish indolence. For Wisdom will always have a microscope in 
her hand. 

But these sayings are still more. They are among the 
highest maxims of the highest prudence, that which superin- 
tends the housekeeping of our souls. The reason why people 
so ill know how to do their duty on great occasions, is, that 
they will not be diligent in doing their duty on little occasions. 
Here too let us only take care of the pence ; and the pounds 
will take care of themselves : for God will be the Paymaster. 
But how will He pay us ? In kind doubtless : by supplying us 
with greater occasions, and enabling us to act worthily of them. 

On the other hand, as there is a law of continuity, whereby 
in ascending we can only mount step by step, so is there a law 
of continuity, whereby they who descend must sink, and that 
too with an ever increasing velocity. No propagation or mul- 
tiplication is more rapid than that of evil, unless it be checkt, 
— no growth more certain. He who is in for a penny, to take 
another expression belonging to the same family, if he does 
not resolutely fly, will find he is in for a pound. u. 

Few do all that is demanded of them. Few hands are 
steady enough to hold out a full cup, without spilling the wine. 
It is Avell therefore to have a cup which will contain something 
beyond the exact measure, — to require more than is absolutely 
necessary for the end we have in view. , a. 

One of the most important, but one of the most difficult 
things for a powerful mind is, to be its own master. Minerva 
should always be at hand, to restrain Achilles from blindly fol- 
lowing his impulses and appetites, even those which are moral 
and intellectual, as well as those which are animal and sensual. 
A pond may lie quiet in a plain ; but a lake wants mountains 
to compass and hold it in. u. 



240 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Is it from distrusting our reason, that we are always so anx- 
ious to have some outward confirmation of its verdicts ? Or is 
it that we are such slaves to our senses, we cannot lift up our 
minds to recognise the certainty of any truths, but those which 
come to us through our eyes and ears ? that, though we are 
willing to look up to the sky now and then, we want the soHd 
ground to stand and he on ? u. 



I was surprised just now to see a cobweb round a knocker: 
for it was not on the gate of heaven. xi. 



We are apt to confound the potential mood with the optative. 
What we wish to do, we think we can do : but when we don't 
wish a thing, it becomes impossible. 



Many a man's vices have at first been nothing worse than 
good qualities run wild. u. 



Examples would indeed be excellent things, were not people 
so modest that none' will set, and so vain that none will follow 
them. 



Surely half the world must be blind : they can see nothing, 
unless it glitters. 

A person who had been up in a balloon, was askt whether 
he did not find it very hot, when he got so near the sun. This 
is the vulgar notion of greatness. People fancy they shall get 
near the sun, if they can but discover or devise some trick to 
lift them from the ground. Nor would it be difficult to point 
out sundry analogies between these bladders from the wind- 
vaults of Eolus, and the means and implements by which men 
attempt to raise themselves. All however that can be effecte 
in this way is happily altogether insignificant. The further we 
are borne above the plain of common humanity, the colder it 
grows : we swell out, till we are nigh to bursting : and manifold 
experience teaches us, that our human strength, like that of 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



241 



Anteus, becomes weakness, as soon as we are severed from the 
refreshinj^ and renovating breast of our mighty Mother. 

On the other hand, it is in the lowly valley that the sun's 
warmth is truly genial ; unless indeed there are mountains so 
close and abrupt as to overshadow it. Then noisome vapours 
may be bred there : but otherwise in the valley may we behold 
the meaning of the w^onderful blessing bestowed upon the 
meek, that they shall inherit the earth. It is theirs for this 
very reason, because they do not seek it. They do not exalt 
their heads like icebergs, — which by the by are driven away 
from the earth, and cluster, or rather jostle, around the Pole ; 
but they flow along the earth humbly and silently ; and, wher- 
ever they flow, they bless it ; and so all its beauty and all its 
richness is reflected in their pure, calm, peaceful bosoms, u. 

The inheritance of the earth is promist to the godly. How 
inseparably is this promise bound up with the command to love 
our neighbours as ourselves ! For what is it to inherit land ? 
To possess it ; to enjoy it ; to have it as our own. Now if we 
did love our fellow-men as ourselves, if their interests, their 
joys, their good were as dear to us as our own, then would all 
their property be ours. We should have the same enjoyment 
from it as if it were called by our name. We can feel the 
truth of this in the case of a dear friend, of a brother, — still 
more in that of a husband and wife, who, though tw^o persons, 
are in every interest one. Were this love extended to all, it 
would once more make all mankind one people and one family. 
To this end the first Christians sought to have all things in 
common : neither said any of them that aught of the things 
which he possest was his own (Acts iv. 32). In proportion as 
we grow to think and feel that the concerns of others are no 
less important to us than our own, in proportion as we learn to 
share their pleasures and their sorrows, to rejoice with them 
when they rejoice, and to suffer and mourn with them when 
they suffer and mourn, in the selfsame measure do we taste the 
blessedness of the promise that we shall inherit the earth. It is 
not the narrow span of our own garden, of our own field, that 
11 ' P 



242 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



we then enjoy. Our prosperity does not bound our happiness. 
That happiness is infinitely multiplied, as we take interest in all 
that befalls our neighbours, and find an everflowing source of fresh 
joy in every blessing bestowed on every soul around us. a. 

This great Christian truth is beautifully exprest by Augustin 
in his 3 2d Treatise on St. John, when he is speaking of the 
union between the individual Christian and the Church. " Quid 
enim ? tu loqueris omnibus linguis ? Loquor, plane, quia omnis 
lingua mea est, id est, ejus corporis cujus membrum sum. Dif- 
fusa Ecclesia per gentes loquitur omnibus linguis : Ecclesia est 
corpus Christi : in hoc corpore membrum es : cum ergo mem- 
brum sis ejus corporis quod loquitur omnibus linguis, crede te 
loqui omnibus linguis. Unitas enim membrorum caritate con- 
cordat ; et ipsa unitas loquitur quomodo tunc unus homo loque- 
batur. — Sed tu forsitan eorum omnium quae dixi nihil habes. 
Si amas, non nihil habes. Si enim amas unitatem, etiam tibi 
habet quisquis in ilia habet aliquid. ToUe invidiam, et tuum 
est quod habeo: tollam invidiam, et meum est quod habes. 
Livor separat ; sanitas jungit. Oculus solus videt in corpore : 
sed numquid soli sibi oculus videt ? Et manui videt, et pedi 
videt, et caeteris membris videt. — Rursus sola manus operatur 
in corpore : sed numquid sibi soli operatur ? Et oculo opera- 
tur. — Sic pes ambulando omnibus membris militat : membra 
caetera tacent, et lingua omnibus loquitur. Habemus ergo 
Spiritum Sanctum, si amamus Ecclesiam." 



This is the great blessing of marriage, that it delivers us 
from the tyranny of Meum and Tuum. Converting each into 
the other, it endears them both, and turns a slavish, deadening 
drudgery into a free and joyous service. And by bringing 
home to every one's heart, that he is something better than a 
mere self, that he is the part of a higher and more precious 
whole, it becomes a type of the union between the Church and 
her Lord. u. 



To Adam Paradise was home. To the good among his 
descendants home is Paradise. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



243 



God's first gift to man was religion, and a glimpse of personal 
liberty: His second was love, and a home, and therein the 
seeds of civilization. His two great institutions are two great 
charters, bestowed on every creature that labours, and on 
women. Had they been respected as they ought, no poor folks 
would ever have been driven to their work hke oxen, and 
trampled down into mere creeping things ; nor would any 
females have been degraded into brute instruments for glutting 
the casual passions of the male. 



In giving us sisters, God gave us the best of earthly moral 
antiseptics; that affinity, in its habitual, intimate, domestic, 
desensualized intercourse of affection, presenting us with the 
ideal of love in sexual separation ; as marriage, or total iden- 
tification, does with the ideal of love in sexual union. Indeed 
it bears the same relation to love, that love bears to human 
nature ; being designed to disentangle love from sense, which is 
love's selfishness, just as love is to disentangle man from selfish- 
ness under all its forms. Yet God again has consecrated sense 
in marriage ; so that its dehghts are only called in to be puri- 
fied and minted by religion. If they are forbidden to the 
appetite, it is to raise their character, and to endow it with a 
blessing ; that, being thus elevated, enricht, and hallowed, they 
may prove the worthier gift lo the chastened and subjected 
imagination. 

Here let me cite a passage from one of the wisest and most 
delightful works of recent times, which, though its author is 
sometimes over-fanciful, and not seldom led astray by his Rom- 
ish prejudices, is full of high and holy thoughts on the loftiest 
subjects of speculation. " La passion la plus effrenee et la plus 
chere a la nature humaine verse seule plus de maux sur la 
terre que tons les autres vices ensemble. Nous avons horreur 
du meurtre : mais que sont tons les meurtres reunis, et la guerre 
meme, compares au vice, qui est comme le mauvais principe, 
homicide des le commencement, qui agit sur le possible, tue ce 
qui n'existe point encore, et ne cesse de veiller sur les sources 
de la vie pour les appauvrir ou les souiller ? Comme il doit 



244 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



toujours y avoir dans le monde, en vertu de sa constitution 
actuelle, une conspiration immense pour justifier, pour embellir, 
j'ai presque dit, pour consacrer ce vice, il n'y en a pas sur 
lequel les saintes pages aient accumule plus d'anathemes tem- 
porels. Le sage nous denonce les suites funestes des nuits 
coupables (iv. C) ; et si nous regardons autour de nous, rien 
ne nous empeche d'observer I'incontestable accomplissement 
de ces anathemes. La reproduction de I'liomme, qui d'un cote 
le rapproche de la brute, I'eleve de I'autre jusqu'a la pure 
intelligence, par les lois qui environnent ce grand mystere de la 
nature, et par la sublime participation accordee a celui qui s'eu 
est rendu digne. Mais que la sanction de ces lois est terrible ! 
Si nous pouvions apercevoir tous les maux qui resultent des 
innombrables profanations de la premiere loi du monde, nous 
reculerions d'horreur. Nos enfans porteront la peine de nos 
fautes : nos peres les ont venges d'avance. Voila pourquoi la 
seule religion vraie est aussi la seule qui, sans pouvoir tout dire 
a I'homme, se soit neanmoins emparee du mariage, et I'ait sou- 
mis a de saintes ordonnances. Je crois meme que sa legisla- 
tion sur ce point doit etre mise au rang des preuves les plus 
sensibles de sa divinite." De Maistre, Soirees de Saint-Peters- 
hourg, i. 59 - 61. 



There are persons who would have us love, or rather obey 
God, chiefly because he outbids the devil. 



I was told once of a man, who lighted a bonfire in his park, 
and walkt through it to get a foretaste of hell, and try what it 
felt like. Surely he who could do this must often have been 
present at scenes which would have furaisht him with a better 
likeness. n 



Some men treat the God of their fathers as they treat their 
father's friend. They do not deny him ; by no means : they | 
only deny themselves to him, when he is good enough to call 
upon them. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



245 



Truth, when witty, is the wittiest of all things. 

Rideniem dicere verum Quid vetat ? In the first place, all 
the sour faces in the world, stiffening into a yet more rigid 
asperity at the least glimpse of a smile. I have seen faces too, 
which, so long as you let them lie in their sleepy torpour, un- 
shaken and unstirred, have a creamy softness and smoothness, 
and might beguile you into suspecting their owners of being 
gentle : but, if they catch the sound of a laugh, it acts on them 
like thunder, and they also turn sour. Nay, strange as it may 
seem, there have been such incarnate paradoxes as would rather 
see their fellowcreatures cry than smile. 

But is not this in exact accordance with the spirit which 
pronounces a blessing on the weeper, and a woe on the laugher ? 

Not in the persons I have in view. That blessing and woe 
are pronounced in the knowledge how apt the course of this 
world is to run counter to the kingdom of God. They who 
weep are declared to be blessed, not because they weep, but 
because they shall laugh : and the woe threatened to the laugh- 
ers is in like manner, that they shall mourn and iceep. There- 
fore they who have this spirit in them will endeavour to for- 
ward the blessing, and to avert the woe. They will try to com- 
fort the mourner, so as to lead him to rejoice : and they will 
warn the laugher, that he may be preserved from the mourning 
and weeping, and may exchange his passing for lasting joy. 
But there are many who merely indulge in the antipathy, with- 
out opening their hearts to the sympathy. Such is the spirit 
found in those who have cast off the bonds of the lower earthly 
affections, without having risen as yet into the freedom of heav- 
enly love, — in those who have stopt short in the state of tran- 
sition between the two lives, like so many skeletons, stript of 
their earthly, and not yet clothed with a heavenly body. It is 
the spirit of Stoicism, for instance, in philosophy, and of vulgar 
Calvinism, which in so many things answers to Stoicism, in re- 
ligion. They who feel the harm they have received from 
worldly pleasures, are prone at first to quarrel with pleasure of 
every kind altogether : and it is one of the strange perversities 



246 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



of our self-will to entertain anger, instead of pity, toward those 
whom we fancy to judge or act less wisely than ourselves. This 
however is only while the scaffolding is still standing around the 
edifice of their Christian life, so that they cannot see clearly out 
of the windows, and their view is broken up into disjointed 
parts. When the scaffolding is removed, and they look abroad 
without hindrance, they are readier than any to delight in all 
the beauty and true pleasure around them. They feel that it is 
their blessed calling, not only to rejoice always themselves, but 
likewise to rejoice with all who do rejoice in innocence of heart. 
They feel that this must be well-pleasing to Him who has filled 
His universe with ever-bubbling springs of gladness ; so that, 
whithersoever we turn our eyes, through earth and sky as well 
as sea, we behold the avf]pL6nov yekaafxa of Nature. On the 
other hand, it is the harshness of an irreligious temper, clothing 
itself in religious zeal, and not seldom exhibiting symptoms of 
mental disorganization, that looks scowlingly on every indication 
of happiness and mirth. 

Moreover there is a large class of people, who deem the 
business of life far too weighty and momentous to be made light 
of ; who would leave merriment to children, and laughter to 
idiots ; and who hold that a joke would be as much out of place 
on their lips, as on a gravestone, or in a ledger. Wit and Wis- 
dom being sisters, not only are they afraid of being indicted for 
bigamy were they to wed them both ; but they shudder at such 
a union as incestuous. So, to keep clear of temptation, and to 
preserve their faith where they have plighted it, they turn the 
younger out of doors ; and if they see or hear of anybody taking 
her in, they are positive he can know nothing of the elder. 
They Avould not be witty for the world. Now to escape being 
so is not very difficult for those whom Nature has so favoured 
that Wit with them is always at zero, or below it. And as to 
their Wisdom, since they are" careful never to overfeed her, she 
jogs leisurely along the turnpike-road, with lank and meagre 
carcass, displaying all her bones, and never getting out of her 
own dust. She feels no inclination to be frisky, but, if a coach 
or a waggon passes her, is glad, like her rider, to run behind a 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



247 



thing so big. Now all these people take grievous offense, if 
any one comes near tliem better mounted ; and they are in a 
tremour lest the neighing and snorting and prancing should be 
contagious. 

Surely however ridicule implies contempt : and so the feel- 
ing must be condemnable, subversive of gentleness, incompat- 
ible with kindness ? 

Not necessarily so, or universally : far from it. The word 
ridicule, it is true, has a narrow, onesided meaning. From our 
proneness to mix up personal feelings with those which are 
more purely objective and intellectual, we have in great measure 
restricted the meaning of ridicule, which would properly extend 
over the whole region of the ridiculous, the laughable, where 
we may disport ourselves innocently, without any evil emotion ; 
and we have narrowed it so that in common usage it mostly 
corresponds to derision, which does indeed involve personal and 
offensive feelings. As the great business of Wisdom in her 
speculative office is to detect and reveal the hidden harmonies 
of things, those harmonies which are the sources and the over- 
flowing emanations of Law, the dealings of Wit on the other 
hand are with incongruities. And it is the perception of incon- 
gruity, flashing upon us, when unaccompanied, as Aristotle 
observes {Poet. c. v), by pain, or by any predominant moral 
disgust, that provokes laughter, and excites the feeling of the 
ridiculous. But it no more follows that the perception of such 
an incongruity must breed or foster haughtiness or disdain, than 
that the perception of anything else that may be erroneous or 
wrong should do so. You might as well argue, that a man 
must be proud and scornful, because he sees that there is such 
a thing as sin, or such a thing as folly in the world. Yet, un- 
less we blind our eyes, and gag our ears, and hoodwink our 
minds, we shall seldom pass through a day, without having 
some form of evil brought in one way or other before us. Be- 
sides the perception of incongruity may exist, and may awaken 
laughter, without the slightest reprobation of the object laught 
at. We laugh at a pun, surely without a shade of contempt 
either for the words punned upon or for the punster : and if a 



248 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



very bad pun be the next best thing to a very good one, this is 
not from its flattering any feeling of superiority in us, but be- 
cause the incongruity is broader and more glaring. Nor, when 
we laugh at a droll combination of imagery, do we feel any 
contempt, but often admiration, at the ingenuity shewn in it, 
and an almost affectionate thankfulness toward the person by 
whom we have been amused, such as is rarely excited by any 
other display of intellectual power ; as those who have ever 
enjoyed the delight of Professor Sedgwick's society will bear 
witness. 

It is true, an exclusive attention to the ridiculous side of 
things is hurtful to the character, and destructive of earnest- 
ness and gravity. But no less mischievous is it to fix our atten- 
tion exclusively, or even mainly, on the vices and other follies 
of mankind. Such contemplations, unless counteracted by 
wholesomer thoughts, harden or rot the heart, deaden the 
moral principle, and make us hopeless and reckless. The 
objects toward which we should turn our minds habitually, are 
those which are great and good and pure, the throne of Virtue, 
and she who sits upon it, the majesty of Truth, the beauty of 
Holiness. This is the spiritual sky through which we should 
strive to mount, " springing from crystal step to crystal step," 
and bathing our souls in its living, life-giving ether. These are 
the thoughts by which we should whet and polish our swords 
for the warfare against evil, that the vapours of the earth may 
not rust them. But in a warfare against evil, under one or 
other of its forms, we are all of us called to engage : and it is 
a childish dream to fancy that we can walk about among man- 
kind without perpetual necessity of remarking that the world 
is full of many worse incongruities, beside those which make 
us laugh. 

Nor do I deny that a laugher may often be a scoffer and a 
scorner. Some jesters are fools of a worse breed than those 
who used to wear the cap. Sneering is commonly found along 
with a bitter, splenetic misanthropy : or it may be a man's 
mockery at his own hollow heart, venting itself in mockery at 
others. Cruelty will try to season, or to palliate its atrocities 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



249 



by derision. The hyena grins in its den ; most wild beasts 
over their prey. But, though a certain kind of wit, like other 
intellectual gifts, may coexist with moral depravity, there has 
often been a playfulness in the best and greatest men, — in 
Phocion, in Socrates, in Luther, in Sir Thomas More, — which, 
as it were, adds a bloom to the severer graces of their charac- 
ter, shining forth with amaranthine brightness when storms as- 
sail them, and springing up in fresh blossoms under the axe of 
the executioner. How much is our affection for Hector increast 
by his tossing his boy in his arms, and laughing at his childish 
fears ! Smiles are the language of love : they betoken the 
complacency and delight of the heart in the object of its con- 
templation. Why are we to assume that there must needs be 
bitterness or contempt in them, when they enforce a truth, or 
reprove an errour ? On the contrary, some of those who have 
been richest in wit and humour, have been among the simplest 
and kindest-hearted of men. I will only instance Fuller, Bish- 
op Earle, Lafontaine, Matthes Claudius, Charles Lamb. " Le 
mechant n'est jamais comique," is wisely remarkt by De Mais- 
tre, when canvassing the pretensions of Yoltaire (^Soirees, i. 
273) : and the converse is equally true : le comique, le vrai 
comique, n'est jamais mechant. A laugh, to be joyous, must 
flow from a joyous heart ; but without kindness there can be no 
true joy. And what a dull, plodding, tramping, clanking would 
the ordinary intercourse of society be, without wit to enliven 
and brighten it ! When two men meet, they seem to be kept 
at bay through the estranging effects of absence, until some 
sportive sally opens their hearts to each other. Nor does any- 
thing spread cheerfulness so rapidly over a whole party, or an 
assembly of people, however large. Reason expands the soul 
of the philosopher ; Imagination glorifies the poet, and breathes 
a breath of spring through the young and genial : but, if we 
take into account the numberless glances and gleams whereby 
Wit lightens our everyday life, I hardly know what power min- 
isters so bountifully to the innocent pleasures of mankind. 

Surely too it cannot be requisite to a man's being in earnest, 
that he should wear a perpetual frown. Or is there less of sin- 
11* 



250 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



cerity in Nature during her gambols in spring, than during the 
stiffness and harshness of her wintry gloom? Does not the 
bird's blithe caroling come from the heart, quite as much as 
the quadruped's monotonous cry? And is it then altogether im- 
possible to take up one's abode with Truth, and to let all sweet 
homely feelings grow about it and cluster around it, and to 
smile upon it as on a kind father or mother, and to sport with it 
and hold light and merry talk with it as with a loved brother or 
sister, and to fondle it and play with it as with a child ? In this 
wise did Socrates and Plato commune with Truth ; in this wise 
Cervantes and Shakspeare. This playfulness of Truth is beau- 
tifully represented by Landor, in the Conversation between 
Marcus Cicero and his brother, in an allegory which has the 
voice and the spirit of Plato. On the other hand the outcries of 
those who exclaim against every sound more lively than a bray 
or a bleat, as derogatory to Truth, are often prompted, not so 
much by their deep feeling of the dignity of the truth in ques- 
tion, as of the dignity of the person by whom that truth is as- 
serted. It is our vanity, our self-conceit, that makes us so sore 
and irritable. To a grave argument we may reply gravely, and 
fancy that we have the best of it : but he who is too dull or too 
angry to smile, cannot answer a smile except by fretting and 
fuming ? Olivia lets us into the secret of Malvolio's distaste 
for the Clown. 

For the full expansion of the intellect moreover, to preserve 
it from that narrowness and partial warp, which our proneness 
to give ourselves up to the sway of the moment is apt to pro- 
duce, its various faculties, however opposite, should grow and 
be trained up side by side, should twine their arms together, 
and strengthen each other by love-wrestles. Thus will it be 
best fitted for discerning and acting upon the multiplicity of 
things which the world sets before it. Thus too will something 
like a balance and order be upheld, and our minds be preserved 
from that exaggeration on the one side, and depreciation on the 
other side, which are the sure results of exclusiveness. A poet 
for instance should have much of the philosopher in him ; not 
indeed thrusting itself forward at the surface, — this would only 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



251 



make a monster of his work, like the Siamese twins, neither 
one thing, nor two, — but latent within: the spindle should be 
out of sight; but the web should be spun by the Fates. A 
philosopher on the other hand should have much of the poet in 
him. A historian caimot be great, without combining the ele- 
ments of the two minds. A statesman ought to unite those of 
all the three. A great religious teacher, such as Socrates, Ber- 
nard, Luther, Schleiermacher, needs the statesman's practical 
power of dealing with men and things, as well as the historian's 
insight into their growth and purpose: he needs the philoso- 
pher's ideas, impregnated and impersonated by the imagination 
of the poet. In like manner our graver faculties and thoughts 
are much chastened and bettered by a blending and interfusion 
of the lighter, so that "the sable cloud" may "turn forth her 
silver lining on the night : " while our lighter thoughts require 
the graver to substantiate them and keep them from evaporat- 
ing. Thus Socrates is said in Plato's Banquet to have main- 
tained that a great tragic poet ought likewise to be a great 
comic poet : an observation the more remarkable, because the 
tendency of the Greek mind, as at once manifested in their 
Polytheism, and fostered by it, was to insulate all its ideas, and 
as it were to split up the intellectual world into a cluster of 
Cyclades ; whereas the appetite for union and fusion, often lead- 
ing to confusion, is the characteristic of modern times. The 
combination however was realized in himself, and in his great 
pupil, and may perhaps have been so to a certain extent in 
Eschylus, if we may judge from the fame of his satyric dramas. 
At all events the assertion, as has been remarkt more than 
once, — for instance by Coleridge {Remains ii. 12), — is a won- 
derful prophetical intuition, which has received its fulfilment in 
Shakspeare. No heart would have been strong enough to hold 
the woe of Lear and Othello, except that which had the un- 
quenchable elasticity of Falstaff and the Midsummer NigMs 
Dream. He too is an example that the perception of the ridic- 
ulous does not necessarily imply bitterness and scorn. Along 
with his intense humour, and his equally intense, piercing in- 
sight into the darkest, most fearful depths of human nature, 



252 



GUESSES AT TEUTH. 



there is still a spirit of universal kindness, as well as universal 
justice, pervading his works : and Ben Jonson has left us a 
precious memorial of him, where he calls him "My gentle 
Shakspeare." This one epithet sheds a beautiful light on his 
character : its truth is attested by his wisdom ; which could 
never have been so perfect, unless it had been harmonized by 
the gentleness of the dove. A similar union of the graver and 
lighter powers is found in several of Shakspeare's contempora- 
ries, and in many others among the greatest poets of the mod- 
ern world ; in Boccaccio, in Cervantes, in Chaucer, in Goethe, 
in Tieck : so was it in Walter Scott. 

But lie who came to set us an example how we ought to 
walk, never indulged in wit or ridicule, and thereby shewed 
that such levities are not becoming in those who profess to fol- 
low Him. 

I have heard this argument alledged, but could never feel its 
force. Jesus did indeed set us an example, which it behoves 
us to follow in all things : we cannot follow it too closely, too 
constantly. It is the spirit of His example however, that we 
are to follow, not the letter. We are to endeavour that the 
principles of our actions may be the same which He manifested 
in His, but not to cleave servilely to the outward form. For, 
as He did many things, which we cannot do, — as He had a 
power and a wisdom, which lie altogether beyond our reach, — 
so are there many things which beseem us in our human, 
earthly relations, but which it did not enter into His purpose 
to sanction by His express example. Else on the selfsame 
grounds it might be contended, that it does not befit a Christian 
to be a husband or a father, seeing that Jesus has set us no ex- 
ample of these two sacred relations. It might be contended 
with equal justice, that there ought to be no statesmen, no sol- 
diers, no lawyers, no merchants, — that no one should write a 
book, — that poetry, history, philosophy, science, ought all to be 
thrown overboard, and banisht for ever from the field of lawful 
human occupations. As rationally might it be argued, that, be- 
cause there are no trees or houses in the sky, it is therefore 
profane and sinful to plant trees and build houses on the earth. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



253 



Jeremy Taylor, in his Exlioriation to the Imitation of the Life 
of Ohrist, when speaking of the things which Christ did, but 
which are not "imitable by us," touches on this very point 
(Vol. ii. p. Lxvii). "We never read (he says) that Jesus 
laught, and but once that He rejoiced in spirit : but the declen- 
sions of our natures cannot bear the weight of a perpetual 
grave deportment, without the intervals of refreshment and 
free alacrity." 

In fact the aim and end of all our Lord's teaching, — to 
draw men away from sin to the knowledge and love of God, — 
was such, that wit and ridicule, even had they been compatible 
with the pure heavenliness of His spirit, could have found no 
place in it. For the dealings of Wit are with incongruities, 
regarded intellectually, rather than morally, — with absurdities 
and follies, rather than with vices and sins : and when it attacks 
the latter, it tries chiefly to jDoint out their absurdity and folly, 
the moral feeling being for the time kept half in abeyance. 
But though there is no recorded instance of our Lord's making 
use of any of the weapons of wit, — nor is it conceivable that 
He ever did so, — a severe, taunting irony is sanctioned by the 
example of the Hebrew Prophets, — as in Isaiah's sublime 
invective against idolatry, and in Elijah's controversy with the 
priests of Baal, — and by that of St. Paul, especially in the 
fourth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians. Surely 
too one may say with Milton, in his Animadversions on the 
Remonstrant^ that " this vein of laughing hath ofttimes a strong 
and sinewy force in teaching and confuting ; " and that, " if it 
be harmful to be angry, and withal to cast a lowering smile, 
when the properest object calls for both, it will be long enough 
ere any be able to say, why those two most rational faculties 
of human intellect, anger and laughter, were first seated in the 
breast of man." In like manner Schleiermacher, who was gifted 
with the keenest wit, and who was the greatest master of irony 
since Plato, deemed it justifiable and right to make use of these 
powers, as Pascal also did, in his polemical writings. Yet all 
who knew him well declare that the basis of his character, the 
keynote of his whole being, was love ; — and so, when I had 



254 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



the happiness of seeing him, I felt it to be ; — a love which 
delighted in pouring out the boundless riches of his spirit for 
the edifying of such as came near him, and strove with unwea- 
riable zeal to make them partakers of all that he had. Hereby 
was his heart kept fresh through the unceasing and often tur- 
bulent activity of his life, so that the subtilty of his understand- 
ing had no power to corrode it ; but when he died, he was still, 
as one of his friends said of him, ein funf-und-sechzigjdhriger 
Jiingling. To complain of his wit and irony, as some do, is 
like complaining of a sword for being sharp. So long as 
errour and evil passions lift up their heads in literature, the 
soldiers of Truth must go forth against them : and seldom will 
it be practicable to fulfil the task imposed upon Shylock, and 
cut out a noxious opinion, especially where there is an inflam- 
mable habit, without shedding a drop of blood. In fact, would 
it not be something like a mockery, when we deem it our duty 
to wage battle, were we to shrink from using the weapons which 
God has placed in our hands ? Only we must use them fairly, 
lawfully, for our cause, not for display, still less in mangling or 
wantonly wounding our adversaries. 

After all however I allow that the feeling of the ridiculous 
can only belong to the imperfect conditions and relations of 
humanity. Hence I have always felt a shock of pain, almost 
of disgust, at reading that passage in Paradise Lost, where, in 
reply to Adam's questions about the stars, Raphael says, 

The Great Architect 
Did "wisely to conceal, and not divulge 
His secrets, to be scanned by them -vvho ought 
Eather admire ; or, if they list to try 
Conjecture, He His fabric of the heavens 
Hath left to their disputes, /)er/w^s to move 
His laugliter at their quaint opinions icide 
Hereafter. When they come to model heaven, 
And calculate the stars, how they will wield 
The mighty frame, how build, unbuild, contrive 
To save appearances, how gird the sphere 
With centi-ic and eccenti-ic scribbled o'er, 
Cycle and epicycle, orb in orb, — 
Already by thy reasoning this I guess. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



255 



Milton might indeed appeal to certain passages in the Old 
Testament, such as Psalm ii. 4, Prov. i. 2G: but the bold and 
terrible anthropopatliy of tliose passages can nowise justify -a 
Christian in attributing such a feeling to God ; least of all as 
excited by a matter of purely speculative science, without any 
moral pravity. For in the sight of God the only folly is 
wickedness. The errours of His creatures, so far as they are 
merely errours of the understanding, are nothing else than the 
refraction of the light, from the atmosphere in which He has 
placed them. Even we can perceive and acknowledge how the 
aberrations of Science are necessary stages in her progress : 
and an astronomer now^adays would only shew his own igno- 
rance, and his incapacity of looking beyond what he sees 
around him, if he were to mock at the Ptolemaic system, or 
could not discern how in its main principles it was the indispen- 
sable prelude to the Copernican. While the battle is pending, 
we may attack an inveterate errour with the missiles of ridi- 
cule, as well as in close fight, reason to reason : but, when the 
battle is Avon, we are bound to do justice to the truth which lay 
at its heart, and which w^as the source of its power. In either 
case it is a sort of blasphemy to attribute our puny feelings to 
Him, before whom the difference between the most ignorant 
man and the least ignorant is only that the latter has learnt a 
few more letters in the alphabet of knowledge. Above all is 
it offensive to represent the Creator as purposely throwing an 
appearance of confusion over His works, that He may enjoy 
the amusement of laughing at the impotent attempts of His 
creatures to understand them. u. 



Nobody who is afraid of laughing, and heartily too, at his 
friend, can be said to have a true and thorough love for him : 
and on the other hand it would betray a sorry want of faith, to 
distrust a friend because he laughs at you. Few men, I beheve, 
are much worth loving, in wdiom there is not something w^ell 
worth laughing at. That frailty, without some symptoms of 
which man has never been found, and which in the bad forms 
the gangrene for their vices to rankle and fester in, shews itself 



256 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



also in the best men, and attaches itself even to their virtues. 
Only in them it appears mainly in occasional awkwardnesses and 
waywardnesses, in their falling short or stepping aside now and 
then, rather than in their absolute abandonment of the i^ath of 
duty. It is the earthly particle which tints the colourless ray, 
and without which that ray is no object of human vision. It 
gives them their determinate features and characteristic expres- 
sion, constituting them real persons, instead of mere personified 
ideas. This too is the very thing that enables us to sympathize 
with them as with our brethren, under deeper and gentler feel- 
ings than those of a stargazing wonder. Now this incongruity 
and incompleteness, this contrast between the pure, spiritual 
principle and the manner and form of its actual manifestation, 
contain the essence of the ridiculous. The discord, coming 
athwart the tune, and blending with it, when not hai^h enough 
to be painful, is ludicrous. 

At times too the very majesty of a principle will make, what 
in another case would scarcely have attracted notice, appear 
extravagant. The higher a tree rises, the wider is the range 
of its oscillations : and thus it comes to pass that there is but a 
step from the sublime to the ridiculous. Nor is it merely that 
the effect is deepened by the contrast. There is ever a Socratic 
playfulness in true magnanimity ; so that, feeling the inadequate- 
ness of all earthly raiment, — finding too that, even when it 
comes to its home, it must come as a stranger and an alien, — 
it is not unwiUing to clothe itself, like the godlike Ulysses, in 
rags. At nothing else can one laugh with such goodwill, and 
at the same time with such innocence and good-humour. Nor 
can any laugh be freer from that contempt, which has so errone- 
ously been supposed to be involved in the feeling of the ridicu- 
lous. The stedfast assurance and unshakable loyalty of love 
are evinced, not in blinking and looking aside from the object 
we profess to regard, and leering on some imaginary counterfeit, 
some puppet of our own fancies, trickt out in such excellences 
as our gracious caprice may bestow on it ; but in gazing fixedly 
at our friend such as he is, admiring what is great in him, 
approving what is good, delighting in what is amiable, and 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



257 



retaining our admiration and approbation and delight unsullied 
and unimpaired, at the very moment when we are vividly con- 
scious that he is still but a man, and has something in him of 
human weakness, something of whunsical peculiarity, or some- 
thing of disproportionate enthusiasm. u. 

Every age has its besetting sins ; every condition its attend- 
ant evils ; every state of society its diseases, that it is especially 
liable to be attackt by. One of the pests which dog Civihza- 
tion, the more so the further it advances, is the fear of ridicule : 
and seldom has the contagion been so noxious as in England at 
this day. Is there anybody living, among the upper classes at 
least, who has not often been laught out of what he ought to 
have done, and laught into what he ought not to have done ? 
Who has not sinned ? who has not been a runagate from duty ? 
who has not stifled his best feelings ? who has not mortified his 
noblest desires ? solely to escape being laught at ? and not once 
merely; but time after time; until that which has so often 
been checkt, becomes stunted, and no longer dares lift up its 
head. And then, after having been laught down ourselves, we 
too join the pack who go about laughing down others. 

The robbers and monsters of the olden time no longer infest 
the world : but the race of scoffers have jumpt into their shoes. 
Your silver and gold you may carry about you securely: of 
your genius and virtue the best part must be lockt up out of 
sight. For the man of the world is the Procrustes, who lays 
down his bed across the highroad, and binds all passers-by to it. 
To fall short of it indeed is scarcely possible ; and so none need 
fear being pulled out; but whatever transgresses its limits is 
cut off without mercy. One of these beds, of a newly invent- 
ed kind, set up mainly for authors, has blue curtains with yel- 
low trimmings ; the drapery of a second is of a dingy, watery 
mud-colour: for in this respect Procrustes has grown more 
refined with the age : his bed has got curtains. Unfortunately 
there is no Theseus to rid us of him : and the hearts of the 
! rabble are with him, and lift up a shout as every new victim 
■ fails into his clutches. Nor do the direct outrages committed 



258 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



by such men make up the whole of their mischief. Their bane- 
ful influence spreads far more widely. Doing no good to those 
whom they attack, but merely maiming or irritating them, they 
at the same time check and frighten others ; and delude and 
warp the judgement, while they ^Damper the malignant passions 
of the multitude. 

But do not these evils amply justify a sentence of transpor- 
tation for life against jesting and ridicule ? and would it not be 
well if we could banish our wits to grin amuck with savages 
and monkies ? 

By no means. If people would discern and distinguish, in- 
stead of confusing and confounding, they would see that the best 
way of putting down the abuse of a thing, is to make it use- 
ful. Would you lop off every body's hands, because they might 
be turned to picking and stealing ? Neither is the intellect to 
be shorn of any of its members ; seeing that, though they may 
all be perverted, they may all minister to good. The busy 
have no time to be fidgety. He who is following his plough, 
will not be breaking windows with the mob. Little is gained 
by overthrowing and sweeping away an idol, unless you restore 
the idea, of which it is the shell and sediment. Nor will you 
find any plan so effective for keeping folks from doing harm, 
as teaching them to employ their faculties in doing good, and 
giving them plenty of good work to do. r. 

No one stumbles so readily as the blind : no one is so easily 
scandalized as the ignorant ; or at least as the half-knowing, as 
those who have just taken a bite at the apple of knowledge, and 
got a smattering of evil, without an inkling of good. 

But are we not to beware lest we offend any of these little ones f 
Assuredly: we are to beware of it from love; or, if love 
cannot constrain us, from fear. No wise man, as was remarkt 
above (p. 1G7), will offend the weak, in that which pertains to 
their faith. For this is a portion of the offense condemned in 
the Gospel : it is offending the little ones who believe in Christ. 
In the whole too of his direct intercourse with others, the wise 
man's principle will be the same: for he will be desirous of 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



250 



instructing, not of imposing, and, that he may be able to teach, 
will try to conciliate. Thus will he act, after the example of 
him, in whom, above all men, we behold the conscious self-abase- 
ment and reasonable self-sacrifice of the loftiest and mightiest 
intellect, the Apostle Paul. Like St Paul, every wise man 
will to the weak become as weak, that he may gain the M^eak : 
like him he will be made all things to all men ; — not in that 
worldly spirit which is made all things to all men for its own 
ends, — but in order that he may by whatsoever means benefit 
some. He who wishes to edify, does not erect a column, as it 
were a gigantic I, a huge mark of admiration at himself, with- 
in which none can find shelter, and which contains nothing 
beyond a stair to mount through it. He will build the lowly 
cottage for the lowly, as well as the lordly castle for the lordly, 
and the princely palace for the princely, and the holy church 
for the holy. Or, if to effect all this surpass the feebleness of 
a single individual, he will do what he can. He will lay out 
and garnish such a banquet as his means enable him to provide ; 
taking care indeed that no dish, which in itself is poisonous or 
unwholesome, be set on his table : and so long as he does not 
invite those who are likely to be disgusted or made sick, he is 
nowise to blame, if they choose to intrude among his guests, 
and to disgust themselves. When they find themselves out of 
their places, let them withdraw : the meek will. A man's ser- 
vants complained of his feeding them on salmon and venison : 
the inhabitants of Terra del Fuego did not like bread or wine : 
reason enough for not forcing what they disliked down their 
throats : but no reason at all for not giving bread and wine to a 
European, or for not placing salmon and venison before such as 
relish them. 

They who would have no milk for babes, are in the wrong. 
They who would have no strong meat for strong men, are not 
in the right. u. 

Neither the ascetics, nor the intolerant antiascetics, seem to 
be aware that the austere Baptist and the social Jesus are 
merely opposite sides of the same tapestry. 



260 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



It is a strange way of shewing our humble reverence and 
love for the Creator, to be perpetually condemning and reviling 
everything that He has created. Were you to tell a poet that 
his poems are detestable, would he thank you for the compli- 
ment ? The evil on which it behoves us to fix our eyes, is that 
within ourselves, of our own begetting; the good, without. 
The half religious are apt just to reverse this. u. 



If the Bible be, what it professes, a publisht code of duty, 
conventional morality at best consists only of man's conjectural 
emendations. Generally they are mere fingermarks. 



The difference between man's law and God's law is, that, 
whereas we may reach the highest standard set before us by 
the former, the more we advance in striving to fulfill the latter, 
the higher it keeps on rising above us. a. 



When a man is told that the whole of Religion and Morality 
is summed up in the two commandments, to love God, and to 
love our neighbour, he is ready to cry, like Charoba in Gebir, 
at the first sight of the sea. Is this the mighty ocean ? is this all? 
Yes! all: but how small a part of it do your eyes survey! 
Only trust yourself to it ; lanch out upon it ; sail abroad over 
it: you will find it has no end: it will carry you round the 
world. u. 



He who looks upon religion as an antidote, may soon grow to 
deem it an anodyne : and then he will not have far to sink, 
before he takes to swallowing it as an opiate, or, it may be, to 
swilling it as a dram. u. 



The only way of setting the Will free is to deliver it from 
wilfulness. u. 



Nothing in the world is lawless, except a slave. 



What hypocrites we seem to be, whenever we talk of our- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



261 



selves ! Our words sound so humble, while our hearts are so 
proud. a. 

Many men are fond of displaying their fortitude in bearing 
pain. But I never saw any one courting blame, to shew how 
well he can stand it. They who do speak ill of themselves, do 
so mostly as the surest way of shewing how modest and candid 
they are. u. 

There are persons who would lie prostrate on the ground, if 
their vanity or their pride did not hold them up. u. 



How coarse is our use of words ! of such at least as belong 
to spiritual matters. Pride and Vanity are for ever spoken of 
side by side ; and many suppose that they are merely different 
shades of the same feeling. Yet so far are they from being 
akin, they can hardly find room in the same breast. A proud 
man will not stoop to be vain : a vain man is so busy in bow- 
ing and wriggling to catch fair words from others, that he can 
never lift up his head into pride. u. 



Pride in former ages may have been held in too good repute : 
Vanity is so now. Pride, which is the fault of greatness and 
strength, is sneered at and abhorred : to Vanity, the froth and 
consummation of weakness, every indulgence is shewn. For 
Pride stands aloof by itself ; and that we are too mob-like to 
bear : Vanity is unable to stand, except by leaning on others, 
and is careful therefore of giving offense; nay, is ready to 
fawn on those by whom it hopes to be fed. This is one of the 
main errours in Miss Edgeworth's views on education, that she 
is not only indulgent to Vanity, but almost encourages and fos- 
ters it : and this errour renders her books for children mischiev- 
ous, notwithstanding her strong sense, and her familiarity with 
their habits and thoughts. Indeed this is the tendency of all 
our modern education. Of old it was deemed the first business 
of education to inculcate humility and obedience : nowadays its 
effect, and not seldom its avowed object, is to inspire selfconceit 
and selfwill. — 1836. u. 



262 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



In the Bible the body is said to be more than raiment. But 
many people still read the Bible Hebrew-wise, backward : and 
thus the general conviction now is that raiment is more than 
the body. There is so much to gaze and stare at in the dress, 
one's eyes are quite dazzled and weary, and can hardly pierce 
through to that which is clothed upon. So too is it with the 
mind and heart, scarcely less than with the body. a. 



A newborn child may be like a person carried into a forein 
land, where everything is strange to him, manners, customs, 
sentiments, language. Such a person, however old, would have 
all these things to learn, just like a child. 



The religious are often charged with judging uncharitably of 
others : and jierhaps the charge may at times be deserved. 
With our narrow, partial views, it is very difficult to feel the 
evil of an errour strongly, and yet to think kindly of him in 
whom we see it. a. 

Man's first word is Yes ; his second, No ; his third and last, 
Yes. Most stop short at the first: very few get to the 
last. u. 

"Who are the most godlike of men ? The question might be 
a puzzling one, unless our language answered it for us: the 
godliest. xj. 

What is the use of the lower orders ? 

To plough . . and to dig in one's garden . . and to rub down 
one's horses . . and to feed one's pi^s . . and to black one's 
shoes . . and to wait upon one. 

Nothing else? 

O yes ! to be laught at in a novel, or in a droll Dutch pic- 
ture . . and to be cried at in Wilkie, or in a sentimental story. 
Is that all ? 

Why ! yes . . no . . what else can they be good for ? except 
to o;o to church. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



263 



Ay! that is well thought of. That mu&t be the meaning of 
the words, Blessed are the poor: for theirs is the Kingdom of 
God. u. 

At first sight there seems to be a discrepancy between the 
two statements of the first beatitude given by St Matthew and 
by St Luke (v. 3. vi. 20). But the experience of missionaries 
in all ages and countries has reconciled them, and has shewn 
that the Kingdom of Heaven is indeed the Kingdom both of 
the poor in spirit and of the poor. u. 



Religion presents few difiiculties to the humble, many to the 
proud, insuperable ones to the vain. a. 



There are two worlds, that of the telescope, and that of the 
microscope ; neither of which can we see with the unassisted 
natural eye. o. l. 

Surely Shakspeare must have had a prophetic vision of the 
nineteenth century, when he threw off that exquisite description 
of purblind Argus, all eyes, and no sight." u. 



Some people seem to look upon priests as smuglers, who 
bring in contraband goods from heaven : and so a company, 
who call themselves philosophers, go out on the preventive 
service. u. 



Ajax ought to be the hero of all philosophers. His prayer 
should be theirs : 'Ev Se 0afi koi okeaaov. U. 



It has been a matter of argument, whether Poetry or History 
is the truer. 

Has it ? Who could ever feel a doubt on the point ? His- 
tory tells us everything that has really happened : whereas 
Poetry deals only with fictions, as they are called ; that is, in 
plain English, with lies. 

Gently ! gently ! Very few histories tell us what has really 



264 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



happened. They tell us what somebody or other once conceived 
to have happened, somebody liable to all the infirmities, physi- 
cal, intellectual, and moral, by which man's judgement is dis- 
torted. Even this seldom comes to us except at third or fourth, 
or, it may be, at twentieth hand ; and a tale, we know, is sure 
to get a new coat of paint from every successive tenant. Often 
too they merely tell us what the writer is pleased to think about 
such a tale, or about half a dozen or a dozen of them that pull 
each other to pieces. 

Then all histories must be good for nothing. 

Softly again ! There is no better sport than jumping at a 
conclusion : but it is prudent to look a while before you leap ; 
for the ground has a trick of giving way. Many histories, or, 
if you like a bigger word, we will say most, are worth very lit- 
tle. Some are only fagots of dry sticks, chopt from trees of 
divers kinds, and bundled up together. Others are baskets of 
fruit, over-ripe and half-ripe, chiefly windfalls, crammed in with- 
out a leaf to part them, and pressing against and mashing one 
another. Others again are mere bags of soot swept down from 
the chimney through which the fire of human action once blazed. 
Still there are histories the worth of which is beyond estimation. 
Almost all autobiographies have a value scarcely inferior to 
their interest ; not only where the author has Stilling's simple 
naivety, or Goethe's clearsighted, Socratic irony, and power of 
representing every object with the hues and spirit of life ; but 
even where his vanity stings him to make himself out a prodigy 
of talents, like Cellini, or a prodigy of worthlessness, like Rous- 
seau. Other biographies, in proportion as they approach to the 
character of autobiography, when they are written by those who 
loved and were familiar with their subjects, who had an eye for 
the tokens of individual character, and could pick up the words 
as they dropt from living lips, are w^holesome and nourishing 
reading. There is much that is beautiful in Walton's Lives, 
though mixt with a good deal of gossip ; and few books so re- 
fresh and lift up one's heart, as the Life of Oberlin, Lucy 
Hutchinson's of her husband, and Roper's of Sir Thomas More. 
Memoirs too, such as Xenophon's and Cesar's, those of Frederic 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



2G5 



the Great, of Sir William Temple, and many others, in which 
the author relates the part he himself took in public life, and 
the affairs he was directly concerned in, contain much instruc- 
tive information, more especially for those who follow a like 
calling. The richness of the French in memoirs, arising from 
their social spirit, has tended much to foster and cultivate that 
spirit, and schooled and trained them to that diplomatic skill, for 
which they have so long been celebrated. Still more precious 
is the story of his own time recorded by a statesman, who has 
trod the field of political action, and has stood near the source 
of events, and lookt into it, when he has indeed a statesman's 
discernment, and knows how men act, and why. Such are the 
great works of Clarendon, of Tacitus, of Polybius, above all, of 
Thucydides. The latter has hitherto been, and is likely to con- 
tinue unequaled. For the sphere of History since his time has 
been so manifoldly enlarged, it is scarcely possible now for any 
one mind to circumnavigate it. Besides the more fastidious 
nicety of modern manners shrinks from that naked exposure of 
the character as well as of the limbs, which the ruder ancients 
took no offense at : and machinery is scarcely doing less towards 
superseding personal energy in politics and war, than in our 
manufactures ; so that history may come ere long to be Avritten 
without mention of a name. In Thucydides too, and in him 
alone, there is that union of the poet with the philosopher, which 
is essential to form a perfect historian. He has the imaginative 
plastic power, which makes events pass in living array before 
us, combined with a profound reflective insight into their causes 
and laws ; and all his other faculties are under the dominion of 
the most penetrative practical understanding. 

Well then ! good history after all is truer than that lying . . . 

I must again stop you, recommending you in futui'^, when the 
wind changes, to tack like a skilful seaman, not to veer round 
like a weathercock. The latter is too commonly the practice of 
those who are beginning to generalize. They are determined 
to point at something, and care little at what. When you have 
more experience, you will find out that general propositions, like 
the wind, are very useful to those who trim their sails by them, 
12 



26G 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



but of no use at all to those who point at them: the former go 
on ; the latter go round. Thucydides, true and profound as he 
is, cannot be truer or profounder than his contemporary, Sopho- 
cles ; whom, as well in these qualities, as in the whole tone of 
his genius and even of his style, he strongly resembles : he can- 
not be truer or more profound than Shakspeare. So Herodotus 
is not more true than Homer, and scarcely less : nor would 
Froissart yield the palm to Chaucer; nor take it from him. 
You might fairly match Euripides against Xenophon, barring 
his Anabasis : and Livy, like Virgil, would be distanced, were 
truth to be the Avinning-post : at least, if he came in first, it 
would be as the greater poet. To draw nearer home. Gold- 
smith's poems, even without reckoning the best of them, his in- 
imitable Vicar, are truer than his Histories : so, beyond com- 
parison, arc Smollett's novels than his ; and Walter Scott's than 
his ; and Voltaire's tales than his. Nothing, I grant, can well 
be truer than Defoe's History of the Plague ; unless it be his 
Robinson Crusoe. Macliiavel indeed found better play for his 
serpentine wisdom in the intrigues of public than of private 
life ; just as one would rather see a boa coil round a tiger than 
round a cat. But while Schiller's Wallenstein carries us amid 
the real struggles of the Thirty Years War, in his History it is 
more like a shamfight at a review. As to your favorite, Hume, 
he wrote no novels or tales that I know of, except his Essays ; 
and full of fiction and truthless as they are, they are hardly 
more so than his History. 

What do you mean ? History, good history at least, Thu- 
cydides, if you choose, tells us facts ; and nothing can be so 
true as a fact. 

Did you never hear a story told two ways ? 

Yes, a score of ways. 

Were they all true ? 

Probably not one of them. 

There may be accounts of facts then, which are not true. 
To be sure, when people tell lies. 

Often, very often, without. There is not half the falsehood 
in the world that the falsehearted fancy ; much as there may 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



2G7 



be ; and greatly as the quantity is increast by suspicion, scratch- 
ing, as it always does, round every sore place. Three fourths 
of the misstatements and misrepresentations that we hear, have 
a different origin. In a number, perhaps the majority of in- 
stances, the feelings of the relater give a tinge to what he sees, 
which his understanding is not free and selfpossest enough to 
rub off. Manifold discrepancies will arise from differences in 
the perceptive powers of the organs by which the object was 
observed ; whether those differences be natural, or result from 
cultivation, or from pecuhar habits of thought. Very often 
people cannot help seeing diversely, because they are not look- 
ing from the same point of view. One man may see a full 
face ; another, a profile ; another, merely the back of the head. 
Let each describe what he has seen : the accounts will differ 
entirely : are they therefore false ? The cloud, which Hamlet, 
in bitter mockery at his own weakness and vacillation, points 
out to Polonius, is at one moment a camel, the next a weasel, 
the third a whale : just so is it with those vapoury, cloudlike, 
changeface things, which we call facts. The selfsame action 
may to one man's eyes appear patient and beneficent, to another 
man crafty and selfish, to a third stupid and porpoise-like. Nay, 
the same man may often find his view of it alter, as he beholds 
it in a fainter or fuller light, displaying less or more of its mo- 
tives and character. But would you not like to take another 
turn round? Every fact, you say, if correctly stated, is a 
truth. 

Of course : it is only another word for the same thing. 

Rather would I assert that a fact cannot be a truth. 

You will not easily persuade me of that. 

I do not want to persuade you of anything, except to follow 
the legitimate dictates of your own reason. I would convince 
you, or rather help you to convince yourself, that a fact is 
merely the outward form and sign of a truth, its visible image 
and body ; and that, of itself and by itself, it can no more be a 
truth, than a body by itself is a man : although common opinion 
in the former case, and common parlance in the latter, has 
trodden down the distinction. 



268 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



I will not dispute this. But in the account of a fact or an 
action I include a full exposition of its causes and motives. 

It has been said of some books richly garnisht with notes, 
that the sauce is worth more than the fish : which with regard 
to the Pursuits of Literature may be true, yet the sauce be 
insipid enough. In like manner would your stuffing seem to be 
worth a good deal more than your bird. This is the very point 
where I wish to see you. A historian then has something else 
to do, beside relating naked fiicts : a file of newspapers would 
not be a history. He has to unfold the origin of events, and 
their connexion, to shew how they hook and are hnkt into the 
" never-ending, still-beginning " chain of causes and conse- 
quences, and to carry them home to their birthplace among 
the ever-multiplying family of Fate. It was the consciousness 
of this that led the Father of History to preface his account of 
the wars between the Greeks and Persians with the fables of the 
reciprocal outrages committed by the Asiatics and Europeans in 
the mythical ages, and to begin his continuous narrative with 
the attack of the Lydians on the lonians. Moreover, as the 
theme of History is human actions; for physical occurrences, 
except so far as they exercise an influence on man, belong to 
Natural History or to Science ; — the events, I say, which a 
historian has to relate, being brought about by the agency of 
man, he has not merely to represent them in their maturity and 
completion, as actually taking place,, but as growing in great 
measure out of the character of the actors, and having their 
form and complexion determiined thereby. So that human 
character, as modifying and modified by circumstances, man 
controlling and controlled by events, must be the historian's, 
ultimate object. Having to represent the actions of men, he 
can only do this effectively, and so as to awaken an interest 
and fellowfeeling, by representing men in action. Now this is 
the first object of the poet : he starts, where the historian ends. 

But the historian's facts are true ; the poet's are acknowledg- 
edly fictitious. When I have read Herodotus, I know for cer- 
tain that Xerxes invaded Greece: after reading Homer, I am 
left in doubt whether Agamemnon ever sailed against Troy. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



2G0 



And what are you the wiser for being certain of the former 
fact? or what the less wise for being left in doubt as to the 
latter ? Your mind may be more or less complete as a chrono- 
logical table : but that is all. The human, the truly philosoph- 
ical interest in the two stories is much the same, whether the 
swords were actually drawn, and the blood shed, or no. Or do 
you think you sliould be wiser still, could you tell who forged 
the sWords, and from what mine the metal came, and who dug 
it up ? and then again, who made the spades used in the dig- 
ging, and so on ? or how many ounces of blood were shed, and 
how many corpses were strewn on the plain, and what crops 
they fattened, and by what birds they were devoured, and by 
what winds their bones were bleacht ! Much information at all 
events you learn from Homer, of the most trustworthy and valu- 
able kind, the knowledge of his age, of its manners, arts, insti- 
tutions, habits, its feelings, its spirit, and its faith. Indeed 
with few ages are we equally familiar : where w^e are, we must 
draw our familiarity from other sources beside history. Nay, 
assume that the facts of the Iliad never took place, that Aga- 
memnon and Achilles and Ajax and Ulysses and Diomede and 
Helen were never born of woman, nor ever lived a life of flesh 
and blood, yet assuredly they did live a higher and more en- 
durinof and mightier life in the hearts and minds of their coun- 
trvmen. So it has been questioned of late years whether 
William Tell actually did shoot the apple on his boy's head ; 
because a similar story is found among the fables of other coun- 
tries. I cannot now examine the grounds on which that doubt 
has been raised : but be they what they may, travel through 
Switzerland, and you will see that the story of Tell is true ; for 
it lives in the heart of every Swiss, high and low, young and 
old, learned and simple. A representation of it is to be found, 
or was so till lately, in every marketplace, almost in every 
house : and many a boy has had the love of his country, and 
the resolution to live and die for her freedom, kindled in him 
by the thought of Tell's boy ; many a father, when his eyes 
were resting on his own children, has blest him who delivered 
them from the yoke of the stranger, and from the possibility of 



270 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



being exposed to such a fearful trial, and has said to himself, 
Yes . , I too would do as he did. The true knowledge to be 
learnt, whether from Poetry or from History, the knowledge of 
real importance to man for the study of his own nature, — the 
knowledge which may give him an insight into the sources of 
his weakness and of his strength, and which may teach him 
how to act upon himself and upon others, — is the knowledge 
of the principles and the. passions by which men in variou- 
ages have been agitated and swayed, and by which events have 
been brought about ; or by which they might have been brought 
about, if they were not. Thus in other sciences it matters little 
whether any particular phenomena were witnest on such a day 
at such a place ; provided we have made out the principles they 
result from, and the laws which regulate them. 

Yet how can a poet teach us this with anything like the same 
certainty as a historian ? 

Just as a chemist may illustrate the operations of Nature by 
an experiment of his own devising, with greater clearness and 
precision than any outward appearances will allow of. The 
poet has his principles of human nature, which he is to embody 
and impersonate ; for to deny his having a mind stored with 
such principles, is to deny his being a poet. The historian on 
the other hand has his facts, which he is to set in order and to 
animate. The first has the foot to measure and make a shoe 
for : the latter has a ready-made shoe, and must hunt for a foot 
to put into it. Which shoe is the hkeliest to fit well ? 

That made on purpose for the foot, if the fellow knows any- 
thing of his craft. 

Doubtless. But in so saying you have yielded the very point 
we have been arguing ? You have even admitted more than 
the equality I pleaded for : you say, the poet is more likely to 
bring his works into harmony with the principles of human 
nature than the historian. I believe you are right. An illus- 
tration from a kindred art may throw some light on our path. 
A portrait-painter has all the advantages a historian can have, 
with a task incomparably less arduous ; his subject being so 
definite, and of such narrow compass : whereas a poet is m 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



271 



much the same conditio*n with a person drawing a head for 
what is not very aptly termed a historical picture : the adjec- 
tive ideal, or imaginative, or poetical, would more fitly describe 
it. In the former case the artist has the features set before 
him, and is to breathe life and characteristic expression into 
them ; a life which shall have the calm of permanence, not the 
jfitful flush of the moment ; an expression which shall exhibit 
the entire and enduring character, not the casual predominance 
of any one temporary feeling. Hereby, as well as by the ab- 
sence of that complacency with which people are wont to con- 
template their own features, and of the effort to put on their 
sweetest faces, which is not unnatural when their own eyes are 
to feast on them, ought a portrait to be distinguisht from an 
image in a glass. Yet, notwithstanding the facilities which the 
portrait-painter has, when compared with a historian, or even a 
biographer, how few have accomplisht anything like what I 
have been speaking of! in how few of their works have the 
very best painters come quite up to it ! Raphael indeed has 
always ; Holbein, Titian, Velasquez, Rubens, Rembrandt, often ; 
and a few others of the greatest painters now and then. But 
a head, which is at once an ideal and a real head, that is, in 
which the features, while they have the vividness and distinct- 
ness of actual life, are at the same time correct exponents and 
symbols of character, will more frequently be met with in a 
poetical picture. As to a historical picture, rightly deserving 
of that name, — a picture representing a historical event, with 
the persons who actually took part in it, — such a work seems 
almost to have been regarded as hopeless. When anything of 
the sort has been attempted, it has been rather as a historical 
document, than for any purpose of art: and the result has 
been Httle else than a collection of portraits; which is no 
more a historical picture, than a biographical dictionary is a 
history. 

Is it not notorious however, that historical, or poetical paint- 
ers, as you call them, are for ever introducing living persons ? 

Yes : the greatest have done so. Raphael whose heart was 
the home of every gentle affection, has left many records of his 



272 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



love for his master, and for his friend Pinturicchio, by painting 
himself along with them among the subordinate characters or 
lookers-on. The Fornarina too seems to have furnisht the type 
for the head of the mother in the Transfiguration^ and perhaps 
for other heads in other pictures. When he makes use of a 
living head however, in representing one of his dramatical or 
poetical personages, he does not set it on the canvas, as Rubens 
through poverty of imagination is wont to do, in its bare out- 
ward reality, but idealizes it. He takes its general form and 
outlines, and animates it with the character and feelings which 
he wishes to express, purifying it from whatever is at variance 
with them. Or rather perhaps, when he was embodying his 
idea, he almost unconsciously drew a likeness of the features on 
which he loved to gaze. In fact no painter, however great his 
genius or inventive power may be, will neglect the study of 
living subjects, and content himself with poring over the phan- 
toms of his imagination, or the puppets of his theory ; any more 
than a poet will turn away from the world of history and of 
actual life. For the painter's business is not to produce a new 
creature of his own, but to reproduce that which Nature pro- 
duces now and then in her happiest moments, to give perma- 
nence to the rapture of transient inspiration, and ' unity and 
entireness to what in real life is always more or less disturbed 
by marks of earthly frailty, and by the intrusion of extraneous, 
if not uncongenial and contradictory elements. You know the 
story of Leonardo, — who himself wrote a theoretical treatise 
on Painting, — how he is said to have sat in the market-place 
at Milan, looking out for heads to bring into his picture of the 
Last Supper. Hence, as Goethe observes (Vol. xxxix. p. 124), 
we may understand how he might be sixteen years at his work, 
yet neither finish the Saviour nor the Traitor. For it is a diffi- 
culty which presses on all such as have ever made a venture 
into the higher regions of thought, to discover anything like 
answerable realities, — to atone their ideas with their percep- 
tions : and the difficulty is much enhanced, when we are not 
allowed to deal freely with such materials as our senses supply, 
but have to bring down our thoughts to a kind of forced wedlock 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



273 



with some one thing just as it is. This is the meaning of what 
Raphael says with such delightful simplicity in his letter to 
Castiglione : Essendo carestia di belle donne, io mi sei^vo di certa 
idea che mi viene alia mente. 

There is something too in the immediate presence of an out- 
ward reality, which in a manner overawes tlie mind, so as to 
hinder the free play of its speculative and imaginative powers. 
We cannot at such a moment separate that which is essential in 
an object, from that which is merely accidental, the permanent 
from the transitory : nor, as we were made for action far more 
than for contemplation, is it desirable that we should do so. 
That which strikes us at sight must needs be that which comes 
forward the most prominently. This however can by no means 
be relied on as characteristic ; least of all in the actions of men, 
who have learnt the arts of clothing and maskin"; their souls as 
well as their bodies. Besides we may easily be too near a thing 
to see it in its unity and totality : and unless we see it as a 
whole, we cannot discern the proportion and importance and 
purpose of its parts. Yet there before us the object stands : the 
spell of reality is upon us : it is, we know not what : we only 
know that it is, and that there is something in it which to us is 
a mystery. We cannot enter into it, to look what is stirring 
and working at its heart : we cannot unfold and anatomize it : 
our senses like leadingstrings, half uphold and guide, half check 
and pull in our understandings. If what we see were only dif- 
ferent from what it is, then we could understand it. But it is 
obstinate, stubborn, changeless, and will not bend to our will. 
So we are fain to let it remain as it is, half felt, half understood, 
with roots diving down out of sight, and branches losing them- 
selves among the tops of the neighboring trees. Thus, whenever 
reality comes athwart our minds, they are sure to suffer more 
or less of an eclipse. We must get out of the shadow of an 
object to see it : we must recede from if, to comprehend it : we 
must compare the present with all our past impressions, to make 
out the truth common to them all. When one calls to mind 
how hard it is, to think oneself into a thing, and to think its 
central thought out of it, one is little surprised that Lavater, 
12* R 



274 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



who on such a point must be allowed to have a voice, should 
say in a letter to Jacobi, " I hold it to be quite impossible tor 
any man of originality to be painted. I am a lover of portraits ; 
and yet there is nothing I hate so much as portraits." 

You cannot need that I should point out to you how all these 
difficulties are magnified and multiphed in history. The field 
of operation is so vast and unsurveyable ; so much of it lies 
wrapt up in thick, impenetrable darkness, while other portions 
are obscured by the mists which the passions of men have 
spread over them, and a spot here and there shines out dazzling- 
ly, throwing the adjacent parts into shade ; the events are so 
inextricably intertwisted and conglomerated, sometimes thrown 
together in a heap, — often rushing onward and spreading out 
like the Rhine, until they lose themselves in a morass, — and 
now and then, after having disappeared, rising up again, as 
was f\ibled of the Alpheus, in a distant region, which they reach 
through an unseen channel ; the peaks, which first meet our 
eyes, are mostly so barren, while the fertilizing waters flow se- 
cretly through the vaUies ; the statements of events, as we have 
already seen, are so perpetually at variance, and not seldom 
irreconcilably contradictory ; the actors on the ever-shifting 
stage are so numerous and promiscuous ; so many indistinguish- 
able passions, so many tangled opinions, so many mazy preju- 
dices, are ever at work, rolHng and tossing to and fro in a sleep- 
less conflict, in which every man's hand and heart seem to be 
against his neighbour, and often against himself ; it is so impos- 
sible to discern and separate the effects brought about by man's 
will and energy, from those which are the result of outward 
causes, of circumstances, of conjunctures, of all the mysterious 
agencies summed up under the name of chance ; and it requires 
so much fiiith, as well as wisdom, to trace anything like a per- 
vading, overruling law through the chaos of human affairs, and 
to perceive how the banner which God has set up, is still borne 
pauselessly onward, even while the multitudinous host seems to 
be straggling waywardly, busied in petty bickerings and per- 
sonal squabbles ; that a perfect, consummate history of the 
M'orld may not unreasonably be deemed the loftiest achievement 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



275 



that the mind of man can contemphite ; although no one able to 
take the measure of his own spiritual stature will dream that it 
could ever be accom2)lisht, except by an intellect far more pen- 
etrative and comprehensive than man's. No mortal eye can 
embrace the whole earth, or more than a very small part of it. 

Indeed how could it be otherwise ? Seeing that the history 
of the world is one of God's own great poems, how can any 
man aspire to do more than recite a few brief passages from it? 
This is what man's poems are, the best of them. The same 
principles and law^s, which sway the destinies of nations, and of 
the whole human race, are exhibited in them on a lower scale, and 
within a narrower sphere ; where their influence is more easily 
discernible, and may be brought out more singly and palpably. 
This too is what man's histories would be, could other men 
write history in the same vivid, speaking characters, in which 
Shakspeare has placed so many of our kings in imperishable 
individuality before us. Only look at his King John : look at 
any historian's. Which gives you the liveliest, faithfullest rep- 
resentation of that prince, and of his age ? the poet ? or the 
historians ? Which most po^verfully exposes his vices, and 
awakens the greatest horrour at them ? Yet in Shakspeare he 
is still a man, and, as such, comes within the range of our sym- 
pathy : we can pity, even wdiile we shudder at him : and our 
horrour moves us to look inward, into the awful depths of the 
nature which we share with him, instead of curdHng into dead 
hatred and disgust. In the historians he is a sheer monster, the 
object of cold, contemptuous loathing, a poisonous reptile, whom 
we could crush to death with as little remorse as a viper. Or 
do you wish to gain an insight into the state and spirit of soci- 
ety in the latter half of the last century, during that period of 
bloated torpour out of which Europe was startled by the fever- 
fit of the Revolution ? I hardly know in wdiat historian you 
will find more than a register of dates and a bulletin of facts. 
There are a number of Memoirs indeed, which shew us what a 
swarm of malignant passions were gathered round the heart of 
society, and how out of that heart did in truth proceed evil 
thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, 



27G 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



malice, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, fool- 
ishness. Nay, as our Lord's words have often been misinter- 
preted, many of those Memoirs might tempt us to fancy, that 
these are the only fruits whicli the heart of man can bring forth. 
Would you understand the true character of that age however, 
its better side as well as its worse, its craving for good as w^ell 
as its voracity for evil ? would you watch the powers in their 
living fermentation, instead of dabbling in their dregs? In 
Goethe's novels, and in some of his dramas, will you most 
clearly perceive how homeless and anchorless and restless man- 
kind had become, from the decay of every ancestral feeling, 
and the undermining of every positive institution; how they 
drifted about before the winds, and prided themselves on their 
drifting, and mockt at the rocks for standing so fast. In them 
you will see how the heart, when it had cast out faith, was mere 
emptiness, a yawning gulf, sucking in all things, yet never the 
fuller ; how Love, when the sanctity of Marriage had faded 
away, was fain to seek a sanctity in itself, and threw itself into 
the arms of Nature, and could not tear itself from her grasp 
save by death ; how men, when the bonds of society and law 
had lost their force, were still led by their social instinct to 
enter into secret unions, and nominally for good purposes, but 
such as flattered and fostered personal vanity, disburthening 
them from that yoke, which we are always eager to cast off, in 
the delusive imagination of asserting our freedom, but which 
alone can make us truly free, as it alone can make us truly 
happy, when we bear it readily and willingly, — the yoke of 
Duty. Here, as in so many other cases, while the historians 
give you the body, and often no more than the carcass, of 
history, it is in the poet that you must seek for its spirit. 

But surely it is part of a historian's office to explain by i 
what principles and passions the persons in his history were 
actuated. 

Undoubtedly : so far as he can. Sundry difficulties however 
impede him in doing this, which do not stand in the way of the 
poet. A historian has to confine himself to certain individua1>. 
not such as he himself would have selected to exemplify the 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



277 



clianictcr of the age, but those who from their station happened 
to act the most prominent parts in it. Now these in monarchal 
states will often be insignificant. Hence modern historians are 
under a great disadvantage, when compared with those of 
Greece and Rome ; where the foremost men could hardly be 
without some personal claims to distinction. Even Cleon and 
Clodius were not so : they belong to the picture of their age, as 
Thersites does to that of the Iliad ; and they are important as 
samples of the spirit that was hastening the ruin of their coun- 
try. Nor can a historian place his persons in such situations, 
and make them so speak and act, as to set off their characters. 
He must keep to those circumstances and actions which have 
chanced to gain the most notoriety, and for which he can pro- 
duce the best evidence. This is one of the reasons which led 
Aristotle to declare that Poetry is a more excellent and philo- 
sophical thing than History ; because, as he says, the business 
of Poetry is with general truth, that of History with particu- 
lars. Or, if you will take up that volume, you will find the 
same thing well exprest by Davenant in the Preface to Gondi- 
hert. There is the passage : " Truth narrative and past is the 
idol of historians, who worship a dead thing : and Truth oper- 
ative, and by effects continually alive, is the mistress of poets, 
who hath not her existence in matter, but in reason." That is, 
the poet may choose such characters, and may bring them for- 
ward in such situations, as shall be typical of the truths which 
he wishes to embody : whereas the historian is tied down to 
particular actions, most of them performed officially, and rarely 
such as display much of character, unless in moments of exag- 
gerated vehemence. Indeed many histories give you little else 
than a narrative of military affairs, marches and countermarch- 
es, skirmishes and battles : which, except during some great 
crisis of a truly national war, afford about as complete a picture 
of a nation's life, as an account of the doses of physic a man 
may have taken, and the surgical operations he may have un- 
dergone, would of the life of an individual. Moreover a histo- 
rian has to proceed analytically, in detecting the motives and 
impulses of the persons whose actions he has to relate. He is 



278 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



to make out what they were, from what they are recorded to 
have done. Afterward, it is true, he ought to invert the pro- 
cess, and to give a synthetical unity to the features he has 
made out in detail. But very few historians have had this 
twofold power. This may be one of the reasons why, among 
the hundreds of characters in Walter Scott's novels, hardly one 
has not more life and reality than his portrait of Buonaparte. 
The former spring freshly from his genius : the latter is put 
together, like a huge mammoth, of fragments pickt up here and 
there, many of which ill fit into the others, and is scarcely 
more than a skeleton with a gaudy chintz dressing-gown thrown 
round him. As historians have themselves had to go behind 
tlie scenes to examine what was doing there, they are fond of 
taking and keeping us behind them also, and bid us mark how 
the actors are rouged, and what tawdry tinsel they wear, and 
by what pullies the machinery is workt. Poets on the other 
hand Avould have you watch and listen to the performance. 
Suppose it were a drama by any human poet, from which 
position would you best understand its meaning and purpose ? 

From the latter : there cannot be a doubt. 

The same position will best enable you to discern the mean- 
ing and purpose of the Almighty Poet; in other words, to 
know truth. Were you to live inside of a watch, you could 
neither use it, nor know its use. Were our sight fixt on the 
inner Avorkings of our bodies, as that of persons in a magnetic 
trance is said to be, we should have no conception what a man 
is, or does, or was made for. Sorry too would be the notion of 
the earth pickt up at the bottom of a mine. In like manner, 
to understand men's characters, one must contemplate them as 
living wholes, in their energy of action or of suffering, not 
creep mnggotlike into them, and crawl about from one rotten 
motive to another, turning that rotten with our touch, which is 
not so already. 

Yet in this respect you surely cannot deny that History is 
much truer than Poetry. For, when reading poetry, you may 
at times be beguiled into fancying that there are people who 
will act nobly and generously and disinterestedly : whereas 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



279 



from history we learn to look askance upon every man with 
prudent suspicion and jealousy. Almost all the historians I 
ever read concur in shewing that the world is wholly swayed 
by the love of money and of power ; and that nobody ever did 
a good deed, unless it slipt from him by mistake, except because 
he could not just then do a bad deed, or wanted to gain a pur- 
chase for doing a bad deed with less risk and more profit at 
some future time. 

Did you never act rightly yourself, purposing so to act, with- 
out any evil design, or any thought of what you were to gain ? 

Do you mean to insult me ? I hope I do so always. 

Are all your friends a pack of heartless, worthless knaves. 

Good morning, sir ! I have no friend who is not an honest 
man ; and civility and courtesy are among their estimable 
qualities. 

Wait a few moments. I congratulate you on your good for- 
tune, and only wish you not to suppose that you stand alone in 
it. I would have you judge of others, as you would have them 
judge of you. I would have you believe that there are other 
honest men in the world, beside yourself and your friends. 

But how can I believe it, when every historian teaches me 
the contrary ? 

How can you believe that you and your friends are so totally 
different from the rest of mankind ? 

I don't know. This used to puzzle me ; but, as I could not 
clear it up, I left off troubling my head about it. 

Let me give you a piece of advice. When your feelings tell 
you anything, and your understanding contradicts them, more 
especially should your understanding be merely echoing the 
verdict of another man's — be not hasty in sacrificing what you 
feel, to what you fancy you understand. You cannot do it in 
real life, as you proved just now : a running stream is not to 
be gagged with paper. But beware also of doing it in specula- 
tion : for, though erroneous opinions do not exercise an absolute 
sway over the heart and conduct, any more than the knowledge 
of truth does, still each has no slight influence, and en our the 
most; inasmuch as it stifles all efforts and aspirations after 



280 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



anything better, which truth would kindle and foster. En- 
deavour to reconcile the disputants where you can. As the 
speediest and surest means of effecting this, try to get to the 
bottom of the difference, to make out its origin and extent. Try 
not only to understand your feelings, but your understanding : 
for the latter is every whit as likely to stray, and to lead you 
astray. You have just been touching on the very point in 
common history which is the falsest. On this ground above all 
would I assert that, on whichever side the preponderance of 
truth may lie, with regard to untruth and falsehood there is 
no sort of comparison. 

To be sure, none. History is all true ; and poetry is all 
false. 

Alack ! this is just the usual course of an argument. After 
an hour's discussion, carried on under the notion that some 
progress has been made, and some convictions establisht, w^e 
find we have only been running round a ring, and must start 
anew : the original position is reasserted as stoutly as ever. 
Well! you remember the old way of settling a dispute, by 
throwing a sword into the scale : let me throw in Frederic the 
Great's pen, which is almost as trenchant, and to which his 
sword lends some of its power. Look at the words with which 
he opens his History: "La plupart des histoires que nous 
avons sont des compilations de mensonges meles de quelques 
verites." I do not mean to stand up for the strict justice of this 
censure. But he is a historian of your own school, an asserter 
and exposer of the profligacy of mankind. Thus much too is 
most certain, that circumstantial accuracy with regard to facts 
is a very ticklish matter ; as will be acknowledged by every 
one who has tried to investigate an occurrence even of yester- 
day, and in his own neighbourhood, when interests and passions 
have been pulling opposite ways. In this sense loo may we 
say, as Raleigh says in a different sense, that, " if we follow 
Truth too near the heels, it may haply strike out our eyes." 
Therefore, on comparing the truthfulness of History and Poetry, 
it appears that History will inevitably have to record many 
facts as true, ^vhich are not true ; while the facts in Poetry, 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



281 



being avowedly fictitious, are not false. On the other hand, in 
the representation of character. Poetry portrays men in their 
composite individuality, mixt up of evil and good, as they are 
in real life : whereas historians too often anatomize men ; and 
then, being unable to descry the workings of life, which has 
past away, busy themselves in tracing the more perceptible 
operations of disease. Hence it comes that they give us such 
false representations of human character: one of their chief 
defects is, that they have seldom enough of the poet in them. 

You would have them conjure away all the persons who 
have really existed, and call up a fantasmagoria of imaginary 
ideals in their stead. 

I would have them animate the dry bones of history, that 
they may rise up as living beings. Goethe calls the Memoirs 
of his life Dichtung und Wahrheit, Imagination and Truth; 
not meaning thereby that any of the events narrated are ficti- 
tious, but that they are related imaginatively, as seen by a 
poet's eye, and felt by a poet's heart. Indeed so far are they 
from being fictions, that through this very process they come 
forward in their highest, completest reality : so that Jacobi, in 
a letter to Dohm, when speaking of this very book, says : " I 
was a party to many of the events related, and can bear wit- 
ness that the accounts of them are truer than the truth itself." 

How is that possible ? how can anything be truer than the 
truth itself? 

Did you never hear of Coleridge's remark on Chantrey's 
admirable bust of Wordsworth, — " that it is more like Words- 
worth than Wordsworth himself is " ? This, we found just now, 
a portrait or bust ought always to be. It ought to represent a 
man in his permanent character, in his true self ; not, as we 
mostly see people, with that self encumbered and obscured by 
trivial, momentary feelings, and other frippery and rubbish. 
Now, as it requires a poet's imagination to draw forth a man's 
character from its lurking-place, and to bring out the central 
principle in which all his faculties and feelings unite ; so is 
the same power needed to seize and arrange the crowd of 
incidents that go to the making up of an event, and to exhibit 

I 



282 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



them vividly and distinctly, yet in such wise that each shall 
only take its due station, according to its dramatic import- 
ance, as member of a greater whole. Even for the repre- 
sentation of events, as well as of characters, a historian ought 
to be much of a poet: else his narrative will be flat, frag- 
mentary, and confused. Look at a landscape on a chill, cloudy 
day : it seems dotted or patcht with objects : the parts do not 
blend, but stand sulkily or frowningly alone. Look at the same 
landscape under a clear, bright sunshine: the hills, rock?, 
woods, cornfields, meadows, will be just the same : and yet how 
different will they be! When bathed in hght, their latent 
beauties come out : each separate object too becomes more dis- 
tinct : and at the same time a harmonizing smile spreads over 
them all. This exactly illustrates the workings of the Imagina- 
tion, w^iich are in like manner at once individualizing and aton- 
ing ; and which, like the sunshine, brings out the real, essential 
truth of its objects more palpably than it would be perceptible 
by the sunless, unimaginative eye. Tlie sunshine does indeed 
give much to the landscape ; yet what it gives belongs to the 
objects themselves ; just as joy and love awaken the dormant 
energies of a man's heart, and make him feel he has much 
within him that he never dreamt of before! Sunshine, poetry, 
love, joy, enrich us infinitely : but what makes their riches so 
precious is, that what they give us is our own : it is our own 
spirit that they free from its bondage, that they rouse out of its 
torpour. They give us ourselves. Hence, because the true 
nature both of events and characters cannot even be discerned, 
much less portrayed, without a poet's eye, is it of such impor- 
tance that a historian should be not scantily endowed with 
imaginative power ; not indeed with an imagination like Walter 
Scott's, which would lead him to represent the whole panto- 
mime of life ; but with an imagination more akin to Shak- 
speare's, so that he may perceive and embody the power- 
which have striven and struo-gled in the drama of life. If his- 
torians had oftener been gifted with this truthseeing faculty, we 
should find many more characters in history to admire and 
love, and fewer to hate and despise. Often too, when forced to 
condemn, we should still see much to move our pity. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



283 



After all, Avhat you say amounts to this, that a historian 
wants imagination to varnish over men's vices. 

He wants imagination to conceive a man's character, without 
which it is impossible to comprehend his conduct. We are all 
prone, you know, to accuse or excuse one another, — a prone- 
ness which is so far valuable, as it is a witness of our moral 
nature: but unhappily we shew it much oftener by accusing 
than by excusing. From our tendency to generalize all our 
conclusions, — a tendency which also is valuable, as a witness 
that we are made for the discernment of law, — we are wont to 
try every one that ever lived by our own standard of right and 
wrong. Now that standard is an exceedingly proper one to try 
the only persons we never try by it . . ourselves. But to oth- 
ers it cannot justly be applied, without being modified more or 
less by a reference to their outward circumstances and condi- 
tion, to their education and habits, — nay, to the inward bent 
and force of their feelings and passions. No reasonable man 
will demand the same virtues from a Heathen as from a Chris- 
tian, or quarrel with Marcus Aurelius because he was not St. 
Louis. Nor will he look for the same qualities in Alcibiades 
as in Socrates, or for the same in Alexander as in Aristotle. 
Nor again would it be fair to condemn Themistocles, because 
he did not act like Aristides, — or Luther, because he differed 
from Melanchthon. Only when we have caught sight of the 
central principle of a man's character, — when we have ascer- 
tained the purpose he set himself, — when we have carefully 
weighed the difficulties he had to contend against, within his 
own heart as well as without, — can we be qualified for passing 
judgement on his conduct: and they who are thus qualified will 
mostly refrain from pronouncing a peremptory sentence. To 
attam to such an insight however requires imagination ; it re- 
qun-es candour ; it requires charity : it requires a mind in 
which the main ingredients of wisdom are duly combined and 
balanced. On thivS point you will find some excellent remarks 
in Coleridge's Notes on Hacket's Life of Bishop Williams 
{Remains iii. 185). "In the history of the morality cf a peo- 
ple, prudence, yea cunning, is the earliest form of virtue. This 



284 



GUESSES AT TEUTH. 



is exprest in Jacob and in Ulysses, and all the most ancient 
fables. It will require the true philosophic calm and serenity 
to distinguish and appreciate the character of the morality of 
our great men from Henry VIII. to the close of James I., — 
nullum numen abest, si sit prudentia, — and of those of Charles 
I. to the Restoration. The difference almost amounts to con- 
trast." And again (p. 194): "I can scarcely conceive a 
greater difficulty, than for an honest, warmhearted man of prin- 
ciple of the present day so to discipline his mind by reflexion 
on the circumstances and received moral system of the Stuarts 
age (from Elizabeth to the death of Charles I.), and its proper 
place in the spiral line of ascension, as to be able to regard the 
Duke of Buckingham as not a villain, and to resolve many of 
the acts of those Princes into passions, conscience-warpt and 
hardened by half-truths, and the secular creed of prudence, as 
being itself virtue, instead of one of her handmaids, when 
interpreted by minds constitutionally and by their accidental 
circumstances imprudent and rash, yet fearful and susjDicious, 
and with casuists and codes of casuistry as their conscience- 
leaders." 

On the other hand historians are apt to write mainly from 
the Understanding, and therefore presumptuously and narrow- 
mindedly. Dwelling amid abstractions, the Understanding has 
no eye for the rich varieties of real life, but only sees its own 
forms and fictions. Hence no faculty is so monotonous; a 
Jew's harp itself is scarcely more so ; while the Imagination 
embraces and comprehends the full, perfect, magnificent diapa- 
son of Nature. The Understanding draws a circle around 
itself, and fences itself in with rules ; and every other circle it 
pronounces to be awry ; whatever lies without those rules, it 
declares to be wrong. Above all is it perverse and delusive in 
its chase after motives. Beholding all things under the cate- 
gory of cause and effect, it lays down, as its prime axiom, tliat 
every action must have a motive. Then, as its dealings arc 
almost wholly with outward things, it determines that the mo- 
tive of every action must lie in something external. Now, 
since all actions, inasmuch as they manifest themselves in time 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



285 



and space, must needs come under the category of causation, 
there is Httle difficuhy in tracing them to such a motive, and 
none in insisting tliat it must be the only one. But the outward 
motive of an action, when it stands alone, must always be im- 
perfect : it can only receive a higher sanction from an inward, 
spiritual principle : very often too it will be corrupt. So that 
this source will mostly be impure: or, if it be too pure and 
clear, nothing is easier than to trouble it : you have only to 
tear up a flower from the brink, and to throw it in. Every 
good deed does good even to the doer : this is God's law. It 
does him good, not merely by confirming and strengthening the 
better principle within him, by purifying and refreshing his 
spirit, and unsealing the fountains of joy and peace : it is also 
fraught more or less, according to the laws of the universe, 
with outward blessings, — with health, security, honour, esteem, 
confidence, and at times even with some of the lower elements 
of worldly prosperity. Every doer of good is w^orthy of admi- 
ration and praise and trust: this is man's instinctive way of 
realizing and fulfilling God's law. No good deed is done, ex- 
cept for the sake of the good the doer is to get from it : this is 
man's intelligent way of blaspheming, and, so far as in him lies, 
annulling God's law. This is the lesson which the school of 
selfish philosophers have learnt from their father and prototype, 
who prided himself on his craft, when he askt that searching 
question. Does Job fear God for yiought'^ 

You, my young friend, know that it is otherwise with you. 
Your conscience, enlightened by your reason, commands you to 
uphold that no action can be good, except such as you perform 
without a thought of any benefit accruing to yourself from it. 
You conceive, and rightly, I doubt not, that you sometimes act 
thus yourself. You are confident that your friends do. Hold 
fast that confidence : cleave to it : preserve and cherish it, as 
you would your honour, that sacred palladium of your soul. 
Do more : extend it to all : enlarge it, until, as the rainbow em- 
braces the earth, it embraces all those whom God has made in 
His image. Cast away that dastardly, prudential maxim, that 
you are to trust no one until you have tried him. Let this be 



28G 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



your comfortable and hopeful watcliword, never to distrust any- 
one, until you have tried him, and found him fail. Nay, after 
he has failed, trust him again, even until seven times, even until 
seventy times seven : so peradventure may your good thoughts 
of him win him to entertain better thoughts of himself. And 
be assured that in this respect, above all others. Poetry knows 
far more of God's world ; with whatever justice History may 
brag of knowing the most about the Devil's world.* u. 



* I cannot deny myself the pleasui'C of confirming what is here said by the 
authority of one of those great soldiers and statesmen whom our Indian Em- 
pire breeds, and who has exemplified the power of these principles by his own 
wonderful achievements, both pacific and military, on the banks of the Indus, 
Major Edwardes, in his very interesting Journal of a Year in the Punjab (vol. 
i. p. 57), after speaking of an expedition he undertook into the country of the 
savage Vizeeree tribes, relying on the honour of one of their chiefs, adds : " I 
pause upon this apparently trifling incident, for no foolish vanity of my own, 
but for the benefit of others : for hoping, as I earnestly do, that many a young 
soldier, glancing over these pages, will gather heart and encouragement for the 
stormy lot before him, I desire above aU things to put into his hand the staff 
of confidence in his fellow-men. 

' Candid, and generous, and just. 
Boys care but little whom they trust, — 

An errour soon corrected : 
For who but learns in riper years 
That man, when smoothest he appears, 

Is most to be suspected — ' 

is a verse very pointed and clever, but quite unworthy of the Ode to Friend- 
ship, and inculcating a creed which Avould make a sharper or a monk of 
Avhoever should adopt it. The man who cannot trast others, is, by his own 
shewing, untmstworthy himself. Suspicious of all, depending on himself for 
everything, from the conception to the deed, the groundplan to the chimney- 
pot, he will fail for want of the heads of Hydra, and the hands of Briareus. 
If there is any lesson that I have learnt from life, it is, that human nature, 
black or white, is better than avc think it: and he who reads these pages to a 
close, will see how much f\iith I have had occasion to place in the rudest and 
wildest of their species, how nobly it was deserved, and how useless I should 
have been without it." 



SECOND SERIES. 



Hardly do we guess aright at things that are upon earth ; and with labour 
do we find the things that are before us : but the things that are in heaven 
who hath searched out? — Wisdom of Solomon, ix. 16. 

Vasta ut plurimum solent esse quae inania : solida contrahuntur maxime, 
et in parvo sita sunt. — Bacon, Inst. 31agn. Praef. 



ADYEETISEMENT TO THE SECOND EDITION. 



This volume is called a second Edition ; for a portion of it was 
contained in tlie former : but more than three fourths are new. Tlie 
first eight sheets were printed off ten years ago : hence, ni the dis- 
cussion on the Progress of mankind, no notice is taken of the views 
concerning Development in reference to religious truth, which have 
recently been exciting so much agitation and confusion. Indeed 
almost all the new matter inserted in tliis Volume was written above 
ten years since, though, in transcribing it for the press, I have often 
modified and enlarged it to bring it into conformity with my present 
convictions. A succession of other works has hitherto interrupted 
the prosecution of this ; and several are now calling me away 
from it. But, as soon as I can get my hands free, I hope, God will- 
ing, to publish a second Edition of the original Second Volume. 
This second Series only goes down to the end of the original First 
Volume. 

J. C. H. 

ROCKEKD, J% 10//!, 1848. 



GUESSES 



AT 



TRUTH. 



In the wars of the middle ages, when the armies were lying 
in their camps, single knights would often sally forth to disport 
themselves in breaking a lance. In modern warfare too the 
stillness of a night before a battle is ever and anon interrupted 
by a solitary cannon-shot ; which does not always fall without 
effect. Ahab was slain by an arrow let off at a venture : nor 
are his the only spolia opima that Chance has borne away to 
adorn her triumphs. 

Detacht thoughts in literature, under whatsoever name they 
may be cast forth into the world, — Maxims, Aphorisms, Es- 
says, Resolves, Hints, Meditations, Aids to Reflexion, Guesses, 
— may be regarded as similar sallies and disportings of those 
who are loth to lie rusting in inaction, though they do not feel 
themselves called to act more regularly and in mass. And 
these too are not wholly without worth and power ; which is 
not uniformly in proportion to bulk. One of the lessons of the 
late wars has been, that large disciplined bodies are not the 
only effective force ; Cossacks and Guerillas, we have seen, 
may render good service in place and season. A curious and 
entertaining treatise might be written de vi quae residet in 
minimis. Even important historical events have been kindled 
by the spark of an epigram or a jest. 

In some cases, as in Novalis, we see youthful genius gushing 
13 s 



290 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



in radiant freshness, and sparkling and bringing out some bright 
hue on every object around, until it has found or made itself a 
more continuous channel. And as Spring sheds its blossoms, 
so does Autumn its golden fruit. Mature and sedate wisdom 
has been fond of summing up the results of its experience in 
weighty sentences. Solomon did so : the wise men of India 
and of Greece did so: Bacon did so: Goethe in his old age 
took delight in doing so. The sea throws up shells and pebbles 
that it has smoothed by rolling them in its bosom : and what 
though children alone should play with them ? " Cheered by 
their merry shouts, old Ocean smiles." 

A dinner of fragments is said often to be the best dinner. 
So are there few minds but might furnish some instruction and 
entertainment out of their scraps, their odds and ends of thought. 
They who cannot weave a uniform web, may at least produce a 
piece of patchwork ; which may be useful, and not without a 
charm of its own. The very sharpness and abruptness with 
which truths must be asserted, when they are to stand singly, is 
not ill fitted to startle and rouse sluggish and drowsy minds. 
Nor is the present shattered and disjointed state of the intel- 
lectual world unaptly represented by a collection of fragments. 
When the waters are calm, they reflect an image in its unity 
and completeness ; but when they are tossing restlessly, it splits 
into bits. So too, when the central fires are raging, they shake 
the mainland, and strew it with ruins, but now and then cast up 
islands. And if we look through history, the age of Asia seems to 
have passed away ; and we are approaching to that of Polynesia. 

Only whatsoever may be brought together in these pages, 
though but a small part be laid within the courts of the temple 
itself, may we never stray so far as to lose it out of sight ; and 
along with the wood and hay and stubble, may there be here 
and tliere a grain of silver, if not of gold. u. 

Poetry is the key to the hieroglyphics of Nature. 

On the outside of things seek for differences ; on the inside 
for likenesses. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



291 



Notions may be imported by books from abroad ; ideas must 
be grown at home by thought. 

If the Imagination be banisht from the garden of Eden, she 
will take up her abode in the island of Armida ; and that soon 
changes into Circe's. 



Why have oracles ceast ? Among other reasons, because we 
have the books of the wise in their stead. But these too will 
not answer aright, unless the right question be put to them. 
Nay, when the answer has been uttered, he who hears it must 
know how to interpret and to apply it. u. 

One may develope an idea : it is what God has taught us to 
do in His successive revelations. But one cannot add to it, 
least of all in another age. 



j Congruity is not beauty : but it is essential to beauty. In 
every well-bred mind the perception of incongruity impedes 
and interrupts the perception of beauty. Hence the recent 
opening of the view upon St. Martin's church has marred the 
beauty of the portico : the heavy steeple presses down on it 
and crushes it. The combination is as monstrous, as it would 
be to tack on the last act of Addison's Cato to the Philoctetes 
of Sophocles. 

i In truth steeples, which belong to the upward-looking princi- 
! pie of Christian architecture, never harmonize well with the 
' horizontal, earthly character of the Greek temple. To under- 
stand the beauty of the latter, one must see it free from this 
extraneous and incompatible incumbrance. One should see it 
\\ too with a southern sky to crown it and look through it. u. 

Homer calls words winged ; and the epithet is peculiarly 
^1 appropriate to his ; which do indeed seem to fly, — so rapid 
and light is their motion; and which have been flying ever 
since over the whole of the peopled earth, and still hover and 
brood over many an awakening soul. Latin marches ; Italian 



292 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



floats ; French hops ; English walks ; German rumbles along : 
the music of Klopstock's hexameter is not unlike the tune with 
which a broad-wheel waggon tries to solace itself, when crawl- 
ing down a hill. But Greek flies, especially in Homer. 

His meaning, or rather the meaning of his age, in assigning 
that attribute to words, was probably to express their power of 
giving wings to thoughts, whereby they fly from one breast to 
another. For a like reason may letters be called winged, as 
speeding the flight of thoughts far beyond the reach of sounds, 
and prolonging it for ages after the sounds have died away ; so 
that the thoughts entrusted to them are wafted to those who are 
far off" both in space and in time. Above all does the epithet 
belong to printing : for, by means of its leaden types, that 
which has been bred in the secret caverns of the mind, no 
sooner comes forth, than thousands of wings are given to it at 
once, and it roams abroad in a thousand bodies ; each several 
body moreover being the exact counterpart of all the others, to 
a degree scarcely attained by any other process of nature or 
of art. 

Ta»v COOT opvidcov Trererjvwv eduea 7roX\a, 
Xrjvcov rj yepdvcov rj kvkvcov dovXi)(o8eipa)V, 
€v6a Ka\ ev6a rroTcoi'TaL ayaXAoyiieyat TrTepvyecrcriv, 
K\ayyr]86u TrpoKaOi^ovTcov, ajxapayei 8e re Xeifxau. 

U. 

The Schoolmen have been accused of syllogizing without 
facts. Their accusers, those I mean who sophisticate and 
explain away the dictates of their consciousness, do worse. 
They syllogize against facts, facts not doubtful and obscure, 
but manifest and certain; seeing that "to feel a thing in 
oneself is the surest way of knowing it." South, Vol. ii. 
p. 236. 



They who profess to give the essence of things, in mo?i 
cases merely give the extract ; or rather an extract, or, it may 
be, several, pickt out at chance or will. They repeat the blun- 
der of the Greek dunce, who brought a brick as a sample of a 
house : and how many such dunces do we still find caUing on 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



293 



us to judge of books by like samples ! At best they just tap 
the cask, and offer you a cup of its contents, having pre- 
viously half filled the cup with water, or some other less inno- 
cent diluent. u. 



When a man cannot walk without crutches, he would fain 
make believe they are stilts. Like most impostors too, he 
gives ear to his own lie ; till, lifting up one of them in a fit of 
passion, to knock down a person who doubts him, he falls to the 
ground. And there he has to remain sprawling: the crutch, 
by help of which he contrived to stand, will not enable him to 
rise. u. 



What do you mean hy the lords spiritual askt Madame de 
Stael : are they so called because they are so spirituels ? How 
exactly do esprit and spirituel express what the French deem 
the highest power and glory of the human mind ! A large 
part of their literature is mousseux: and whatever is so soon 
grows flat. 

Our national word and quality is sense ; which may perhaps 
betray a tendency to materialism ; but which at all events com- 
prehends a greater body of thought, thought that has settled 
down and become substantiated in maxims. u. 



Hardly any period of afterlife is so rich in vivid and raptur- 
ous enjoyment, as that when Knowledge is first unfolding its 
magical prospects to a genial and ardent youth ; when his eyes 
open to discern the golden network of thought wherein man 
has robed the naked limbs of the world, and to see all that he 
feels teeming and glowing within his breast, embodied in glori- 
fied and deathless forms in the living gallery of Poetry. So 
long as we continue under magisterial discipline and guidance, 
we are apt to regard our studies as a mechanical and often irk- 
some taskwork. Our growing presumption is loth to acknowl- 
edge that we are unable to walk alone, that our minds need 
leadingstrings so much longer than our bodies. But when the 
impatient scholar finds himself set free, with the blooming para- 



294 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



dise of imagination and thought spread out before him, his mind, 
Hke the butterfly, by which the Greeks so aptly and character- 
istically typified their spirit, exulting in the beauty which it 
everywhere perceives, both without itself and within, and de- 
lighting to prove and exercise its newly developt faculty of 
admiring and loving, will hover from flower to flower, from 
charm to charm ; and now, seeming chiefly to rejoice in its mo- 
tion, and in the glancing of its bright and many-coloured wings, 
merely snatches a passing kiss from each, now sinks down on 
some chosen favorite, and loses all consciousness of sense or life 
in the ecstacy of its devotion. 

In more advanced years, the student rather resembles the 
honey-seeking, honey-gathering, honey-storing bee. He esti- 
mates : he balances : he compares. He picks out what seems 
best to him from the banquet lying before him : and even this 
he has to season to his own palate. But at first everything 
attracts, everything pleases him. The simple sense, whether of 
action or of feeling, whatever may be their object, is sufiicient. 
The mind roams from fancy to fancy, from truth to truth, from 
one world of thought to another world of thought, with an ease, 
rapidity, and elastic power, like that with which it has been im- 
agined that the soul, when freed from the body, will wander , 
from star to star. Nay, even after the wild landscape, through 
which youth strayed at will, has been laid out into fields and 
gardens, and enclosed with fences and hedges, after the foot- 
steps, which had bounded over the flower-strewn grass, have 
been circumscribed within trim gravel walks, the vision of its 
former happiness will still at times float before the mind in its 
dreams. Unless it has been bent down and hardened by the 
opposition it has had to struggle with, it will still retain a dim, 
vivifying hope, although it may not venture to shape that hope 
into words, that it may again one day behold a similar harmo- 
nious universe bursting forth from the jarring and fragmentary 
chaos of hollow realities, — that in its own place and station it 
may, as Frederic Schlegel expresses it. 

Build for all arts one temple of communion, 
Itself a new example of their union; — 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



295 



and that it may at least witness the prelude to that final con- 
summation, when, as in the beginning, all things will again be 
one. TJ. 



Set a company of beginners in archery shooting at a mark. 
Their arrows will all fly wide of it, some on one side, some on 
the opposite : and while they are all thus far off, many a dis- 
pute will arise as to which of them has come the nearest. But 
in proportion as they improve in skill, their arrows will fall 
nearer to the mark, and to each other : and when they are fixt 
in the target, there is much less controversy about them. Now 
suppose them to attain to such a pitch of mastery, that every 
arrow shall go straight to the bull's eye : they will all coincide. 
This may help us to understand how the differences of the wise 
and good, which are often so perplexing and distracting now, 
will be reconciled hereafter ; when the film of mortality is 
drawn away from their eyes, and their faculties are strengthened 
to see truth, and to strive after it, and to reach it. a. 



Only, if we would hit the truth, we must indeed aim at it. 
Else the more we improve in handling the bow, the further 
away from it shall we send our arrows. As for that numerous 
class, who, instead of aiming at truth, have merely aimed at 
glorifying themselves, their arrows will be found to have re- 
coiled, like that of Adrastus in Statins, and to be stickino- their 
deadly, barbed points into their own souls. Alas! there are 
many such pseudo-Sebastians walking about, bristled with 
suicidal darts, living martyrs to their own vain-glory. u. 

Heroism is active genius ; genius, contemplative heroism. 
Heroism is the self-devotion of genius manifesting itself in 
action ; rj Oeias rivos (f)vaea)s iuepyeia, as a Greek would more 
closely have defined it. 



These are the men to employ, in peace as well as in war, the 
men who are afraid of no fire except hell-fire. 



296 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



How few, liow easily to be counted up, are the cardinal 
names in the history of the human mind ! Thousands and tens 
of thousands spend their days in the preparations which are to 
speed the predestined change, in gathering and amassing the 
materials which are to kindle and give light and warmth, when 
the fire from heaven has descended on them. But when that 
flame has once blazed up, its very intensity often shortens its 
duration. Many, yea, without number, are the sutlers and 
pioneers, the engineers and artisans, who attend the march of 
intellect. Many are busied in building and fitting up and 
painting and emblazoning the chariot ; others in lessening the 
friction of the wheels : others move forward in detachments, 
and level the way it is to pass over, and cut down the obstacles 
which would impede its progress. And these too have their 
reward. If so be they labour diligently in their calling, not 
only will they enjoy that calm contentment which dihgence in 
the lowliest task never fails to win ; not only will the sweat of 
their brows be sweet, and the sweetener of the rest that follows ; 
but, when the victory is at last achieved, they come in for a 
share of the glory ; even as the meanest soldier who fought at 
Marathon or at Leipsic, became a sharer in the glory of those 
saving days ; and within his own household circle, t,he approba- 
tion of which approaches the nearest to that of an approving 
conscience, was lookt upon as the representative of all his 
brother heroes, and could tell such tales as made the tear glisten 
on the cheek of his wife, and lit up his boy's eyes with an un- 
wonted, sparkling eagerness. 

At length however, when the appointed hour is arrived, and 
everything is ready, the master-mind leaps into the seat that is 
awaiting him, and fixes his eye on heaven ; and the selfmoving 
wheels roll onward ; and the road prepared for them is soon 
past over ; and the pioneers and sutlers are left behind ; and 
the chariot advances further and further, until it has reacht its 
goal, and stands as an inviting beacon on the top of some dis- 
tant mountain. 

Hereupon the same labours recur. Thousands after thou- 
sands must toil to attain on foot to the spot, to which genius 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



297 



had been borne in an instant ; and much time is spent in clear- 
ing and paving the road, so that the muUitude may be able to 
go along it, — in securing for all by reflexion and analysis, 
what the prophetic glance of intuition had descried at once. 
And then again the like preparations are to be made for the 
advent of a second seer, of another epoch-making master-mind. 
Thus, when standing on the beach, you may see the rpcKVfila, as 
the Greeks called it, outrunning, not only the waves that went 
before, but those that come after it : and you may sometimes 
have to wait long, ere any reaches the mark, which some 
mighty, over-arching, onrushing billow, some Jiuctus decumanus 
has left. 

That there have been such third and tenth waves among 
men, will be apparent to those who call to mind how far the 
main herd of metaphysicians are still lagging behind Plato ; 
and how, for near two thousand years, they were almost all 
content to feed on the crumbs dropt from Aristotle's table. It 
is proved by the fact, that, even in physical science, the progress 
of which, it is now thought, nothing can check or retard, — and 
in which, more than in any other province of human activity, 
whatever knowledge is once gained forms a lasting fund for 
afterages to inherit and trade with, — not a single step was 
taken, not a single discovery made, as Whewell observes, either 
in mechanics or hydrostatics, between the time of Archimedes 
and of Galileo. Indeed the whole of Whewell's History of 
Science so strikingly illustrates the foregoing remarks, that, 
had they not been written long before, they might be supposed 
to be drawn immediately from it. The very plan of his work, 
which his subject forces upon him, divides itself in like manner 
into preludes, or periods of preparation, mductive epochs, when 
the great discoveries are made, and sequels, during which those 
discoveries are more fully establisht and developt, and more 
generally diffused. 

Or, if we look to poetry, — to which the law of progression 
no way applies, any more than to beauty, but which, like beauty, 
is mostly in its prime during the youth of a nation, and then is 
wont to decline, — so entirely do great poets soar beyond the 
13* 



298 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



reach, and almost beyond the ken of their own age, that we have 
only lately begun to have a right understanding of Shakspeare, 
or of the masters of the Greek drama, — to discern the princi- 
ples which actuated them, the purposes they had in view, the laws 
they acknowledged, and the ideas they wisht to impersonate. 

And is the case different in the arts ? What do we see in 
architecture, but two ideas shining upon us out of the depth of 
bygone ages, that of the Greek temple, and that of the Gothic 
minster ? Each of these was a living idea, and, as such, capa- 
ble of manifold development, expansion, and modification. Nor 
were they unwilling to descend from their sacred throne, and 
to adapt themselves to the various wants of civil life. But 
what architectural idea has sprung up since ? These are both 
the offspring of dark ages : what have we given birth to, since 
we dreamt Ave had a sun within us ? One might almost sup- 
pose that, as Dryden says, in his stupid epigram on Milton, 
"The force of Nature could no further go;" so that, "To make 
a third, we joined the other two." If of late years there has 
been any improvement, it consists solely in this, that we have 
separated the incongruous elements, and have tried to imitate 
each style in a manner more in accord with its original prin- 
ciple ; although both of them are ill suited for divers reasons 
to the needs of modern society. Yet nothing like a new idea 
has arisen, unless it be that of the factory, or the gashouse, 
or the gaol. 

In sculpture, it is acknowledged, the Greeks still stand alone : 
and among the Greeks themselves the art declined after the age 
of Phidias and Praxiteles. In painting too who has there been 
for the last century worthy to hold Raphael's palette ? Even 
in what might be deemed a mechanical excellence, colouring, 
we are put to shame, when we presume to shew our faces by 
the side of our greater ancestors. u. 

From what has just been said, we may perceive how base- 
less and delusive is the vulgar notion of the march of mind, as 
necessarily exhibiting a steady, regular advance, within the 
same nation, in all things. Even in the mechanical arts, — 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



299 



which depend so little on individual eminence, and which seem 
to require nothing more than the talents ordinarily forthcoming, 
according as there is a demand for them, in every peoj^le, — 
although the progress in them is more continuous, and outlasts 
that in higher things, yet, when the intellectual and moral 
energy of a nation has declined, that decline becomes percepti- 
ble after a while in the very lowest branches of trade and man- 
ufacture. Civilization will indeed outlive that energy, and keep 
company for a long time with luxury. But if luxury extin- 
guishes the energy of a people, so that it cannot revive, its civil- 
ization too will at length sink into barbarism. The decay of 
the Roman mind under the empire manifests itself not merely in 
its buildings, its statues, its language, but even in the coins, in 
the shape and workmanship of the commonest utensils. 

In fact it is only when applied on the widest scale to the 
whole human race, that there is the slightest truth in the doc- 
trine of the perfectibility, or rather of the progressiveness of 
man. Nay, even when regarded in this light, if we take noth- 
ing further into account, than what man can do and will do for 
himself, the notion of his perfectibihty is as purely visionary, as 
the search after an elixir of life, or any other means of evading 
the pains and frailties of our earthly nature. The elixir of life 
we have : the doctrine and means of perfectibility we have : 
and we know them to be true and sure. But they are not of 
our own making. They do not lie within the compass of our 
own being. They come to us from without, from above. The 
only view of human nature, as left to itself, which is not incom- 
patible with all experience, is not its perfectibility, but its cor- 
ruptibility. 

This is the view to which we are led by the history of the 
antediluvian world. This is the view represented in the prime- 
val fable of the four ages ; the view exprest in those lines of 
the Roman poet : 

Aetas parentum, pejor avis, tulit 
Nos nequiores, mox daturos 
Progeniem vitiosiorem. 

Indeed it is the view which man has in all ages taken of his 



300 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



own nature ; whether his judgment was determined by what he 
saw within himself, or in the world around him. It is the view 
to which he is prompted when his thoughts fall back on the inno- 
cence of his own childhood, when he compares it with his pres- 
ent debasement, and thinks of the struggles he has had to main- 
tain against himself, and against others, in order to save himself 
from a still more abject degradation. The same lesson is taught 
him by the destinies of nations ; which, when they have left their 
wild mountain-sources, will mostly meander playfully for a while 
amid hills of beauty, and then flow majestically through plains 
of luxuriant richness, until at last they lose themselves in mo- 
rasses, and choke themselves up with their own alluvion. 

Of a like kind is the main theme and subject of poetry. Its 
scroll, as well as that of history, is like the roll which is spread 
out before tlie prophet, written icithin and without ; and the 
matter of the writing is the same, lamentations, and mourning, 
and luoe. "When we have swallowed it submissively indeed, it 
turns to sweetness ; but not till then : in the words of the Greek 
philosopher, it is through terrour and pity that poetry purifies 
our feelings. Hence the name of the highest branch of poetry 
is become a synonym for every disaster : tragedy is but another 
term for lamentations and mourning and woe : while epic po- 
etry delights chiefly to dwell on the glories and fall of a nobler 
bygone generation. With such an unerring instinct does man's 
spirit recoil from the thought of an earthly elysium, as attain- 
able by his own powers, however great and admirable they may 
be. What though his strength may seem vast enough to snatch 
the cup of bliss ! what though his intellect appear subtile enough 
to compass or steal it ! what though he send his armies and 
fleets round the globe, and his thoughts among the stars, and 
beyond them ! he knows that the disease of his will is sure to 
undermine both his strength and his intellect ; and that, the 
higher they mount for the moment, the more terrible will their 
ruin be, and the more certain. He knows that Sisyphus is no 
less sure than Typhoeus of being cast into hell through his own 
perversity ; and that only through the flames of the funeral pile 
can Hercules rise into glory. It was reserved for a feeble- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



301 



minded, earth-worshiping, self-idolizing age to find out that a 
tragedy should end happily. 

Nor will the boasted discovery of modern times, the division 
of labour, — which the senters-out of allegories will suppose to 
be the truth veiled in the myth of Kehama's self-multiplication, 
when he is marching against Padalon to seize a throne among 
the gods, — avail to alter this. The Eoman fable warns us 
what is sure to ensue, when the members split and set up 
singly : and the state of England at this day affords sad con- 
firmation to the lesson, that, unless they work together under 
the sway of a constraining higher spirit, they jar and clash and 
cumber and thwart and maim each other. 

The notion entertained by some of the ancients, that, when a 
person has soared to an inordinate pitch of prosperity, the envy 
of the gods is provoked to cast him down, is merely a perver- 
sion of the true idea. Man's wont has ever been to throw off 
blame upon anything except himself; even upon the powers of 
heaven, when he can find no earthly scapegoat. At the same 
time this very notion bears witness of the pervading conviction 
that a state of earthly perfection is an impossibility. The fun- 
damental idea both of the tragic arr] and of the historic vejxeais is, 
that calamities are the inevitable consequences of sins ; that the 
chain which binds them together, though it may be hidden and 
mysterious, is indissoluble ; and that, as man is sure to sin, more 
especially when puft up by prosperity, he is also sure to perish. 
The sins of the fathers are indeed regarded by both as often 
visited upon the children, even to the third and fourth genera- 
tion ; not however without their becoming in some measure 
accessory to the guilt. Were they not so, the calamities would 
be as harmless as the wounds of Milton s angels. 

This however, which is the essential point in the whole argu- 
ment, — the concatenation of moral and physical evil, and the 
everlasting necessity by which sin must bring forth death, — 
has mostly been left out of thought by the broachers and 
teachers of perfectibility. Perceiving that man's outward re- 
lations appeared to be perfectible, they fancied that his nature 
was so likewise : or rather they scarcely heeded his nature, 



302 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



and lookt solely at his outward relations. They saw that his 
dominion over the external world seemed to admit of an indef- 
inite extension. They saw that his knowledge of outward 
things had long been progressive ; that vast stores had been 
piled up, which were sure to increase, and could scarcely be 
diminisht. So, by a not unnatural confusion, they assumed 
that the greater amount of knowledge implied a proportionate 
improvement in the faculties by which the knowledge is ac- 
quired ; although a large empire can merely attest the valour 
of those who won it, without affording evidence either way with 
regard to those who inherit it. All the while too it was forgot- 
ten that a man's clothes are not himself, and that, if the spark 
of life in him goes out, his clothes, however gorgeous, must sink 
and crumble upon his crumbling body. 

The strange inconsistency is, that the very persons who have 
indulged in the most splendid visions about the perfectibility of 
mankind, have mostly rejected the only principle of perfectibil- 
ity which has ever found place in man, the only principle by 
which man's natural corruptibility has even been checkt, the 
only i^rinciple by which nations or individuals have ever been 
regenerated. The natural life of nations, as well as of indi- 
viduals, has its fixt course and term. It springs forth, grows 
up, reaches its maturity, decays, perishes. Only through Chris- 
tianity has a nation ever risen again : and it is solely on the 
operation of Christianity that we can ground anything like a 
reasonable hope of the perfectibihty of mankind ; a hope that 
wdiat has often been wrought in individuals, may also in the ful- 
ness of time be wrought by the same power in the race. u. 

I met this morning with the following sentences. 

" An upholsterer nowadays makes much handsomer furniture 
than they made three hundred years ago. The march of mind 
is discernible in everything. Shall religion then be the only 
thing that continues wholly unimproved ? " 

What? Does the march of mind improve the oaks of the 
forest ? does it make them follow its banners to Dunsinane, or 
dance, as Orpheus did of old ? does it improve the mountains ? 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



303 



does it improve the waves of the sea ? does it improve the sun ? 
The passage is silly enough : I merely quote it, because it gives 
plain utterance to a delusion, which is floating about in thou- 
sands, I might say in millions of minds. Some things we im- 
prove ; and so we assume that we can improve, and are to 
improve all things ; as though it followed that, because we can 
mend a pen, we can with the same ease mend an eagle's wing ; 
as though, because nibbing the pen strengthens it, paring the 
eagle's wings must strengthen them also. People forget what 
things are progressive, and what improgressive. Of those too 
which are progressive, they forget that some are borne along 
according to laws independent of human control, while others 
may be shoved or driven on by the industry and intelligence of 
man. Nay, even among those things with which the will and 
wit of man might seem to have the power of dealing freely, are 
there none which have not kept on advancing at full speed along 
with the march of mind ? Where are the churches built in our 
days, which are so much grander and more beautiful than those 
of York and Salisbury, of Amiens and Cologne, as to warrant a 
presumption that they who can raise a worthier house for God, 
are also likely to know God, and to know how to worship him 
better ? 

In one point of view indeed we do improve both the oaks 
and the mountains, both the sea and even the sun ; not in them- 
selves absolutely, but in their relations to us. We make them 
minister more and more to our purposes ; and we derive greater 
benefits from them, which increase with the increase of civiliza- 
tion. In this sense too may we, and ought we to improve re- 
ligion ; not in itself, but in its relations to us ; so that it may do 
us more and more good, or, in other words, may exercise a 
greater and still greater power over us. That is to say, Ave are 
to improve ourselves, in the only way of doing so effectually : 
we are to increase the power of religion over us, by obeying it, 
by submitting our wills to it, by receiving it into our hearts with 
more entire devotion and love. u. 



Every idea, when brought down into the region of the em- 



30J: GUESSES AT TRUTH. 

pirical understanding, and contemplated under the relations of 
time and space, involves a union of opposites, which are bound 
together and harmonized in it : or rather, being one and simple 
in its own primordial fulness, it splits, when it enters into the 
prismatic atmosphere of human nature. Thus too is it with 
Christianity, from whatever point of view we regard it. If we 
look at it historically, it is at once unchangeable and change- 
able, at once constant and progressive. Were it not unchange- 
able and constant, it could not be the manifestation of Him who 
is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. Were it not change- 
able and progressive, it would not be suited to him with whom 
today is never like yesterday, nor tomorrow like today. There- 
fore it is both at once ; one in its essence and changeless, as 
coming from God ; manifold and variable in its workings, as 
designed to pervade and hallow every phase and element of 
man's being, his thoughts, his words, his deeds, his imagination, 
his reason, his affections, his duties. For it is not an outward 
form : it is not merely a law, manifesting itself by its own light, 
cast like a sky around man, and guiding him by its polar con- 
stellations : its light comes down to him, and dwells with him, 
and enters into him, and, mingling with and strengthening his 
jDroductive powers, issues forth again in blossoms and fruits. 
Accordingly, as those powers are various, so must the blossoms 
and fruits be that spring from them. 

If we compare our religious writers, ascetical or doctrinal, 
with those of France or Germany, we can hardly fail to per- 
ceive that, in turning from one nation to another, we are open- 
ing a new vein of thought : so remarkably and characteristically 
do they differ. .1 am not referring to the errours, Romanist or 
rationalist, with which many of our continental neighbours are 
tainted : independently of these, each picks out certain portion? 
of the truth, such as are most congenial to the temper of his 
own heart and mind. Nor is he wrong in doing so : for the aim 
of Christianity is not to stifle the germs of individual character, 
and to bring down all mankind to a dead level. On the con- 
trary, it fosters and developes the central principle of individu- 
ality in every man, and frees it from the crushing burthen with 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



'30o 



which the lusts of the flesh and the vanities of hfe overlay it ; 
as we may observe from the very first in the strongly markt 
characters of Peter and James and John and Paul. 

So too, if we compare tlie religious writers of the present 
day with those who lived a hundred years ago, — or these with 
the great divines of the seventeenth century, — or these with 
the Reformers, — or these with the Schoolmen and the mystics 
of the middle ages, — or these with the Latin Fathers, or with 
the Greek, — we must needs be struck by a number of pecu- 
liarities in the views and feelings of each age. The forms, the 
colouring, the vegetation change, as we pass from one zone of 
time to another: nor would it require a very nice discrimination 
to distinguish, on reading any theological work, to what age of 
Christianity it belongs. Doctrines are differently brought for- 
ward, differently mast : some become more prominent than they 
have hitherto been, while others fall into the background. New 
chains of logical connexion are drawn between them. New 
wants are felt ; new thoughts and feelings arise ; and these too 
need to be hallowed. The most powerful and living preachers 
and writers have ever been those, who, full of the spirit of 
their own age, have felt a calling and a yearning to bring that 
spirit into subjection, and to set it at one with the spirit of 
Christ. 

In this manner Christianity also becomes subject to the law 
of change, to which Time and all its births bow down. In a 
certain sense too the change is a progress ; that is to say, in 
extent. Christianity is ever conquering some new province of 
human nature, some fresh national variety of mankind, some 
hitherto untenanted, unexplored region of thought or feeling. 
The star-led wisdom of the East came to worship the Lord of 
Truth, as soon as he appeared upon earth : and already in Paul 
and John do w^e see how the reason of man is transfigured by 
the incarnation of the Eternal Word. At Alexandria it was 
attempted to shew what system of truths would arise from this 
union of the human reason with the divine : and ever since, 
from Origen down to Schleiermacher and Hegel and Schelling, 
the highest endeavour of the greatest philosophers has been to 



30C 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Christianize their philosopliy ; aUhough in doing so they have 
often been deluded into substituting a fiction of their own, some 
phantom of logical abstractions, or some idol of a deified Na- 
ture, for the living God of the Gospel. Errours of all kinds 
have indeed beguiled Philosophy by the way : yet the inmost 
desire of her soul has ever been to celebrate her atonement 
with Religion : and often, when she has gone astray after the 
lusts of the world, this has been in the bitterness of her heart, 
because the misjudging sentinels of Religion, instead of invit- 
ing and welcoming her and cheering her on, reviled her and 
drove her away. Hence too, in those ages when she has been 
too fast bound in scholastic chains, she has been wont to utter 
her plaint in the broken sighs of the mystics. 

" Throughout the history of the Church (says Neander, in 
the introduction to his great work), we see how Christianity is 
the leaven that is destined to pervade the whole lump of human 
nature." The workings of this leaven he traces out with ad- 
mirable skill and beauty, and in a spirit combining knowledge 
with faith and love in a rare and exquisite union. Indeed the 
setting forth of this twofold manifestation of Christianity, in its 
constancy and in its progressiveness, is the great business of its 
historian. For such a history precious hints are to be found in 
the Letters recently publisht on the Kingdom of Christ, one of 
the wisest and iioblest works that our Church has produced since 
the Ecclesiastical Polity. Whereas the common run of Church- 
historians are wont to disregard one of the two elements; either 
caring solely for that which is permanent in Christianity, with- 
out attending to its progressiveness ; or else degrading it into 
a mere human invention, which man is to mould and fashion 
according to the dictates of his own mind. 

After all it must never be forgotten that an increase in ex- 
tent is very different from an increase in intensity. Like every 
other power. Religion too, in widening her empire, may impair 
her sway. It has been seen too often, both in philosophy and 
elsewhere, that, when people have fancied that the world w^as 
becoming Christian, Christianity was in fact becoming worldly. 

u. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



307 



The tendency of man, we have seen, is much rather to be- 
lieve in the corruptibihty, than in the perfectibility of his nature. 
The former is the idea embodied in almost every mythology. 
It is the idea to which Poetry is led by the contrast between 
her visions and the realities of life. It is the idea prompted by 
man's consciousness of his own helplessness, of his own cadu- 
city and mortality, of his own sinfulness, and of his utter 
inability to contend against the powers of nature, against time, 
against death, and against sin. Perhaps too, as in looking back 
on the past we are fonder of dwelling, whether with thankful- 
ness or regret, on the good than on the evil that has befallen us, 
so conversely in our anticipations of the future fear may be 
stronger than hope. At least it is so with persons of mature 
years : and only of late have the young usurpt the right of 
determining public opinion. Even in those ages when men had 
the best grounds for knowing that in sundry things they surpast 
their ancestors, they were still disposed of old to look rather at 
the qualities in which they conceived themselves to have degen- 
erated ; and they deemed that the accessions in wealth or 
knowledge were more than counterbalanced by the decay of 
the integrity, simplicity, and energy, which adorned the avdpes 
MapaBcovofjLaxoL. In this there may have been much exaggera- 
tion, and no little delusion ; but at all events it is a unanimous 
protest lifted up from every quarter of the earth, by all na- 
tions and languages, against the notion of the perfectibility of 
mankind. 

The opposite belief, that there is any point of view from 
which mankind can be regarded as progressive, so that the 
regular advances already made may warrant a hope that after- 
ages will go on advancing in the same direction, seems to have 
been originally excited by the progress of science, and to have 
been confined thereto. Perhaps it may have been by the Ro- 
mans, — on whom such a vast influx of knowledge poured in, 
as if to make amends for the downfall of everything else, in the 
latter ages of the republic, and the earlier of the empire, — that 
such a notion was first distinctly entertained. Thucydides was 
indeed well aware that Greece had been increasing for centuries 



308 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



in power and wealth and civilization; and he strongly urges 
that the events of his own time are superior in importance to 
any former ones. More than once too he explicitly asserts the 
law, which is tacitly and practically recognized by all men, that, 
according to the constitution of human nature, we may count 
that the future wuU resemble the past. But the calamities of 
wdiich he was a witness, seemed rather to forebode the destruc- 
tion of Greece, than its attaining to any higher eminence ; and 
the Greek mind had not learnt to digest the thought that bar- 
barians could become civihzed. It was not till the age of Poly- 
bius that this confession was extorted by the spreading power 
of Rome. Nor was it possible for the Greeks to conceive, how 
the various elements of their nationality, w^liich were so beauti- 
ful in their distinctness, would be fused together, like the Co- 
rinthian brass in the legend, by their destroyers, to become the 
material of a bulkier and massier, though less graceful and 
finely proportioned state. Their philosophers speculated about 
the origin and growth of civil society, the primary institution of 
governments, and the natural order in which one form passes 
into another : but they too saw nothing in the world before their 
eyes, to breed hope with regard to the future ; and Plato avows 
that, through the frailty of man, even his perfect common- 
wealth must contain the seeds of its own dissolution. 

The theory of a cycle in which the various forms of govern- 
ment succeed one another, is adopted by Polybius ; who feels 
such confidence in it as to declare (vi. 9), that by its help a man, 
judging dispassionately, may with tolerable certainty prognosti- 
cate what fortunes and changes await any existing constitution. 
He goes no further how^ever than to lay down (vi. 51), that in 
the life of a state, as in that of an individual, there is a natural 
order of growth, maturity, and decay. Men were still very far 
from the idea that, while particular states and empires rise and 
fall, the race is slowly but steadily advancing along its predes- 
tined course. Indeed near two thousand years were to pass 
away, before this idea could be contemplated in its proper light. 
It was necessary that the human race should be distinctly re- 
garded as a unit, as one great family scattered over the world. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 300 

It was necessary that the behef in particular national gods 
should be superseded bj the faith in the one true God, the Fa- 
ther of heaven and earth. It was necessary that we should be 
enabled to take a wide, discriminating, catholic survey of all the 
nations that have ever risen above the historical horizon ; and 
that we should have learnt not to look upon any of them as 
wholly outcast from the scheme of God's providence ; that we 
should be convinced how each in its station has had a part to 
act, a destiny to fulfiU. 

Even Science as yet could hardly be said to exhibit a grow- 
ing body of determinate results : nor was there anything hke 
a regular progress in it anterior to the Alexandrian school. 
Among the Roman men of letters, on the other hand, we find 
the progressiveness of science asserted as a law. Ne quis des- 
peret saecula projicere semper, says Pliny (ii. 13). The same 
assurance is declared by Seneca in the w^ell-known conclusion 
of his Natural Questions. Veniet tempus, quo ista quae nunc 
latent, in lucem, dies extrahat, et longioris aevi diligentia. — 
Veniet tempus, quo posteri nostri tam aperta nos nescisse miren- 
tur. — Multu saeculis tunc futuris cum memoria nostri exoleve- 
rit, reservantur. — Non semel quaedam sacra traduntur : JEleusis 
servat quod ostendat revisentibus. Rerum natura, sacra sua non 
simul tradit. Initiatos nos credimus : in vestibulo ejus haere- 
mus. These sentences, even after deducting what must always 
be deducted on account of the panting and puffing of Seneca's 
short-breathed broken-winded style, still shew a confidence of 
the increase of knowledge, which was hardly to be found in 
earlier times. It is worth noting that this confidence, both in 
him and in Pliny, is inspired by the discoveries in astronomy ; 
which Whewell remarks {Hist, of the hid. Sci. i. 90), was " the 
only progressive science produced by the ancient world." 
With regard to maritime discovery a like confidence is exprest 
in those lines of the chorus in the Medea : 

Venient annis saecula sei'is, 
Quibus Oceanus vincula rerum 
Laxet, et ingens pateat tellus ; 
Tethysque novos detegat orbes ; 
Nec sit terris ultima Thule : 



310 GUESSES AT TRUTH. 

lines evidently belonging to a later age than that of Ovid, to 
whom the Medea has without sufficient warrant been ascribed. 
It must have afforded some consolation to those who lived when 
the old world was sinking so fast into its grave, and when its 
heart and soul and mind all bore tokens of the deadly plague 
that was consuming it, to see even this brighter gleam in the 
distance. Even this, I say : for the prospect of the progress of 
science was not connected with that of any general improve- 
ment of mankind. On the contrary Seneca combines it in 
strange contrast with the increase of every corruption. Tarde 
magna proveniunt. Id quod unmn toto agimus animo, nondum 
perfecimus, ut pessimi essemiis. Adhuc in processu vitia sunt. 
He was not so intoxicated with the fruit of the tree of knowl- 
edge, as to fancy, like the sophists of later times, that it was 
the fruit of the tree of life. On the contrary he pronounces 
that the earth will be overflowed by another deluge, and that 
every living creature will be swallowed up ; and that then, on 
the retreat of the waters, every animal will be produced anew, 
dahiturque terris homo inscius scelerum. Sed illis quoque inno- 
centia non durabit, nisi dum novi sunt. Cito nequitia suhrepit : 
inrtus difficilis inventu est, rectorem ducemque desiderat. Etiam 
sine magistro vitia discuntur : (^Nat. Quaest. iii. 30). 

Nor could the perfectibility of mankind gain a place among 
the dreams of the middle ages. The recollections of the ancient 
world had not so entirely past away : the fragments of its wreck 
were too apparent : men could not but be aware that they were 
treading among the ruins of a much more splendid state of civ- 
ilization. It is true, human nature was not at a standstill dur- 
ing that millenary. A new era was preparing. Mighty births 
were teeming in the womb ; but they were as yet unseen. 
Men were laying the foundations of a grander and loftier edi- 
fice : but this is a work which goes on underground, which 
makes no show ; and the labourers themselves little knew what 
they were doing. Even in respect of that which raised them 
above former ages, their purer faith, while the spirit of that 
faith casts down every proud thought, and stifles every vain 
boast, they were perpetually looking back, with shame and sor- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



311 



row for their own falling off, to the holiness and zeal of the 
primitive Christians. Indeed, as by our bodily constitution 
pain, liowever local, pierces through the whole frame, and 
almost disables us for receiving any pleasurable sensations 
through our other members, thereby warning us to seek for an 
immediate remedy ; so have we a moral instinct, which renders 
us acutely sensitive to the evils of the present time, far more 
tlian to those of the past ; thus rousing us to strive against that 
which is pur only rightful foe. Our imagination, on the other 
hand, recalling and enhancing the good of the past, shews us 
that there is something to strive after, something to regain. It 
shews us that men may be exempt from the evil which is gall- 
ing us, seeing that they have been so. Moreover that which 
survives of the past is chiefly the good, evil from its nature 
being akin to death ; and this good is in divers ways brought 
continually before us, in all that is precious of the inheritance 
bequeathed to us by our ancestors. Every son, with the heart 
of a son, is thankful for what his father has done for him and 
left to him : nor will any but an unnatural one, uncover his 
father's nakedness, even for his own eyes to look upon it. So 
far indeed were men in the middle ages from deeming them- 
selves better than their forefathers, or expecting anything like 
a progressive improvement, an opinion often got abroad that 
the last days were at hand, and that the universal unprece- 
dented corruption was a sign and prelude of their approach. 

The great discoveries of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, 
which opened one world after another to men's eyes, and 
taught them at length to know the nature and compass of the 
earth and of the heavens, might indeed have awakened pre- 
sumptuous thoughts. But Luther at the same time threw open 
the Bible to them. He opened their eyes to look into the 
moral and the spiritual world, and to see more clearly than be- 
fore, how the whole head was sick, and the whole heart faint. 
The revival of letters too, while it opened the ancient world to 
them, almost compelled them to acknowledge that in intellectual 
culture they were mere barbarians in comparison with the 
Greeks and Romans: and for a long time men's judgements 



312 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



were spellbound, as Dante's was by Virgil, so that they vailed 
their heads, as before their masters, even when their genius 
was mounting above them. Hence the belief that mankind had 
degenerated became so prevalent, that Hakewill, in the first 
half of the seventeenth century, deemed it necessary to estab- 
lish by a long and elaborate induction that it was without any 
substantial ground. 

As he wrote early in Charles the First's reign, before the 
close of the most powerful and brilliant age in the history of 
the human mind, one might have thought he would have found 
no difficulty in convincing the contemporaries of Shakspeare 
and Bacon, that men's wits had not shrunk or weakened. But 
a genial age, like a genial individual, is unconscious of its own 
excellence. For the element and life-blood of genius is admira- 
tion and love. This is the source and spring of its power, its 
magic, beautifying wand : and it finds so much to admire and 
love in the various ^vorlds which compass it around, it cannot 
narrow its thoughts or shrivel up its feelings to a paralytic wor- 
ship of itself. Hakewill begins his Apology with declaring, 
that, " the opinion of the world's decay is so generally received, 
not only among the vulgar, but by the learned, both divines 
and others, that its very commonness makes it current with 
many, without any further examination." In his Preface he 
speaks of himself as " walking in an untrodden path, where he 
cannot trace the prints of any footsteps that have gone before 
him ; " and, to excuse the length of his book, he pleads his 
having " to grapple with such a giant-like monster." Nor does 
even he venture beyond denying the decay of mankind. He is 
far from asserting that there is any improvement ; only that 
there is " a vicissitude, an alternation and revolution " (p. 332), 
that, " what is lost to one part is gained to another ; and what 
is lost at one time, is recovered at another ; and so the balance, 
by the divine providence overruling all, is kept upright." " As 
the heavens remain unchangeable (he says in his Preface), so 
doth the Church triumphant in heaven : and as all things under 
the cope of heaven vary and change, so doth the militant here 
on earth. It hath its times and turns, sometimes flowing, and 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



313 



again ebbing with the sea, — sometimes waxing, and again 
waning with the moon ; which great hght, it seems, the Al- 
mighty therefore set the lowest in the heavens, and nearest the 
earth, that it might daily put us in mind of the constancy of the 
one, and the inconstancy of the other ; herself in some sort par- 
taking of both, though in a different manner, — of the one in 
her substance, of the other in the copy of her visage." He also 
acknowledges the important truth, that, if there be any deterio- 
ration, it has a moral cause. But the conception of a meliora- 
tion, of an advance, seems never to have entered his head. 

It is sometimes worth while to shew how recent is the origin 
of opinions, which are now regarded as incontestable and 
almost self-evident truths. The writer of a letter publisht by 
Coleridge in the Friend says (VoL iii. p. 13) : "The faith in 
the perpetual progression of human nature toward perfection — 
will, in some shape, always be the creed of virtue." Words- \ 
worth too, in the beautiful answer in which he prunes oif some 
of the excrescences of this notion, still gives his sanction to the 
general assertion : " Let us allow and believe that there is a 
progress in the species toward unattainable perfection ; or, 
whether this be so or not, that it is a necessity of a good and 
greatly gifted nature to believe it." A necessity it is indeed 
for a good and highly gifted nature to believe that something 
may be done for the bettering of mankind, and for the removal 
of the evils weighing upon them. Else enterprise would flag 
and faint; which is never vigorous and strenuous, unless it 
breathe the mountain-air of hope. It must have something to 
aim at, some prize^ to press forward to. But when we look on 
the state of the world around us, there is so much to depress 
and to breed despondence, — so much of the good of former 
times has past away, so much fresh evil has rusht in, — that no 
thoughtful man will hastily pronounce his own age to be on the 
whole better than foregoing ones. Rather, as almost every ex- 
ample shews, from meditating on the evils he has to contend 
against, — on their number, their diffusion, their tenacity, and 
their power, — will he incline to deem it worse. And so far is 
the perfectibility of man from forming an essential article of his 
U 



314 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



creed, that I doubt whether such a notion was ever entertained, 
as a thing to be reaUzed here on earth, till about the middle of 
the last century. 

Even Bacon, the great prophet of Science, wdio among all 
the sons of men seems to have lived the most in the future, 
who acknowledged that his Avords required an age, saeculum 
forte integrum ad prohandum, complura autem saecula ad perji- 
ciendiun, and who was so imprest with this belief, that in his 
will he left " his name and memory to forein nations and to the 
next ages," — even he, in his anticipations of the increase of 
knowledge, which was to ensue upon the adoption of his new 
method, hardly goes beyond the declaration in the book of Dan- 
iel, that many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall he in- 
creast. Let me quote the noble passage, in which, just before 
the close of his Advancement of Learning, he gives utterance 
to his hopes. " Being now at some pause, looking back into 
that I have past through, this writing seemeth to me, as far as 
a man can judge of his own work, not much better than that 
noise or sound which musicians make while they are tuning 
their instruments ; which is nothing pleasant to hear, yet is a 
cause why the music is sweeter afterward : so have I been con- 
tent to tune the instruments of the muses, that they may play 
who have better hands. And surely, when I set before me the 
condition of these times, in which Learning hath made her third 
visitation or circuit, in all the qualities thereof, — as the excel- 
lency and vivacity of the wits of this age, — the noble helps 
and lights which we have by the travails of ancient writers, — 
the art of printing, which communicateth books to men of all 
fortunes, — the openness of the world by navigation, which 
hath disclosed multitudes of experiments and a mass of natural 
history, — the leisure wherewith these times abound, not em- 
ploying men so generally in civil business, as the states of 
Greece did in respect of their popularity, and the state of Rome 
in respect of the greatness of her monarchy, — the present dis- 
position of these times to peace, — and the inseparable propri- 
ety of time, which is ever more and more to disclose truth ; — 
I cannot but be raised to this persuasion, that this third period 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



315 



of lime will far surpass that of the Grecian and Roman learn- 
ing." And in the Novum Organum (i. cxxix.), where he enu- 
merates the benefits likely to accrue to mankind from the 
increase of knowledge, he wisely adds, with regard to its moral 
influence : " Si quis depravationem scientiarum ad malitiam et 
luxuriam et similia objecerit, id neminem moveat. Illud enim 
de omnibus mundanis bonis dici potest, ingenio, fortitudine, viri- 
bus, forma, divitiis, luce ipsa, et reliquis. Recuperet mode 
genus humanum jus suum in naturam, quod ei ex dotatione 
divina competit; et detur ei copia: usum vero recta ratio et 
sana religio gubernabit." 

Thus far all is sound and sure. Bacon's prophecies of the 
advance of science have been fulfilled for beyond what even he 
could have anticipated. For knowledge partakes of infinity: 
it widens with our capacities : the higher we mount in it, the 
vaster and more magnificent are the prospects it stretches out 
before us. Nor are we in these days, as men are ever apt to 
imagine of their own times, approaching to the end of them : 
nor shall w^e be nearer the end a thousand years hence than we 
are now. The family of Science has multiplied : new sciences, 
hitherto unnamed, unthought of, have arisen. The seed which 
Bacon sowed sprang up, and grew to be a mighty tree ; and the 
thoughts of thousands of men came and lodged in its branches : 
and those branches spread " so broad and long, that in the 
ground The bended twigs took root, and daughters grew About 
the mother tree, a pillared shade High overarcht . . . and echo- 
ing walks between "... walks where Poetry may wander, and 
wreathe her blossoms around the massy stems, and where Re- 
ligion may hymn the praises of that Wisdom, of which Science 
erects the hundred-aisled temple. 

But Bacon likewise saw and acknowledged that Science of 
itself could not perfect mankind, and that right reason and pure 
rehgion were wanting to prevent its breeding evil. Although 
he had crost the stormbeaten Atlantic, over which men had for 
ages been sailing to and fro almost improgressively, and though 
in the confidence of his prophetic intuition he gave the name of 
Good Hope to the headland he had reacht, yet, when he cast 



31G 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



his eyes on the boundless expanse of waters beyond, he did not 
venture, like Magellan, to call it the Pacific. Once indeed a 
voice was heard to announce the rising of peace on earth : but 
that peace man marred : the bringer of it he slew : and, as if to 
shew how vain such a dream is, Magellan also was slain soon 
after he lancht out upon the sea, which in the magnanimous en- 
thusiasm of his joy he named the Pacific. Calm too as the 
Pacific appeared at first, it was soon found to have no exemp- 
tion from the tempests of earth, which have been raging over it 
ever since with no less fury than they displayed on the Atlantic 
before. If Bacon's hopes were too sanguine in any respect, it 
was in trusting that reason and religion would guide and direct 
science. He did not sufficiently foresee how the old idolatries 
would revive, — how men would still worship the creature, un- 
der the form of abstractions and laws, instead of the living, 
lawo^ivino; Creator. 

Every age of the world has had its peculiar phase of this 
idolatry, its peculiar form and aspect, under which it has con- 
ceived that the powers of earth would effect what can only be 
effected by the powers of heaven. Every age has its peculiar 
interests and excellences, which it tries to render paramount 
and absolute. The delusion of the last century has been, that 
Science will lead mankind to perfection. In looking at the his- 
tory of Science, it must strike every eye, that, while the growth 
of poetry and philosophy is organic and individual, the increase 
of science is rather mechanical and cumulative. Every poet, 
every philosopher must begin from the beginning. Whatever 
he brings forth must spring out of the depths of his own nature, 
must have a living root in his heart. Pindar did not start 
where Homer left off, and engage in improving upon him : the 
very attempt would have been a proof of feebleness. And 
what must be the madness of a man who would undertake to 
improve upon Shakspeare ! As reasonably might one set out 
to tack a pair of leaders before the chariot of the sun. The 
whole race of the giants would never pile an Ossa on this 
Olympus : their missiles would roll back on their heads from 
the feet of the gods that dwell there. Even Goethe and Schil- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



317 



ler, when they meddled with Shakspeare, and would fain have 
mended him, have only proved, what Voltaire, and Dryden 
himself, had proved before, that " Within his circle none can 
walk but he." Nor, when Shakspeare's genius past away from 
the earth, did any one akin to him reign in his stead. Indeed, 
according to that law of alternation, which is so conspicuous in 
the whole history of literature, it mostly happens that a period 
of extraordinary fertility is followed by a period of dearth. 
After the seven plenteous years come seven barren years, 
which devour the produce of the plenteous ones, yet continue 
as barren and illfavoured as ever. 

Nor may a philosopher, any more than a poet, be a mere 
link in a chain : he must be a staple firmly and deeply fixt in 
the adamantine walls of Truth. If he rightly deserves the 
name, his mind must be impregnated with some of the primor- 
dial ideas, of life and being, man and nature, fate and freedom, 
order and law, thought and will, power and God. He may 
have received them from others ; but he must receive them as 
seeds : they must teem and germinate within him, and mingle 
Avith the essence of his spirit, and must shape themselves into a 
new, original growth. He who merely takes a string of prop- 
ositions from former writers, and busies himself in drawing 
fresh inferences from them, may be a skilful logician or psy- 
chologer, but has no claim to the high title of a philosopher. 
For in this too does philosophy resemble poetry, that it is not a 
bare act of the intellect, but requires the energy of the whole 
man, of his moral nature and will and affections, no less than 
of his understanding. It is the ideal pole, to which poetry is 
the real antithesis ; and it bears the same relation to science, as 
poetry does to history. Hence those dissensions among philos- 
ophers, which are so often held up as the great scandal of 
philosophy, and the like of which are hardly found in science. 
They may, no doubt, be carried on in a reprehensible temper ; 
that, however, belongs to the individuals, not to philosophy : so 
far as they are merely diversities, they may and ought to exist 
harmoniously side by side, as different incarnations of Truth. 
A great philosopher will indeed find pupils, who will be content 



318 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



to be nothing more ; who will work out and fill up his system, 
and follow it in its remoter applications ; who will be satraps 
under him, and go forth under his command to push on his 
frontier. But if any among them have a philosophical genius 
of their own, they will set up after a while for themselves ; as 
we see in the history of philosophy in the only two countries 
where it has flourisht, Greece and Germany. They who have 
light in themselves, will not revolve as satellites. They do not 
continue the servants and agents of their master's mind, but, 
like the successors of Alexander, establish independent thrones, 
and found new empires in the regions of thought. Hence too 
the other great scandal of philosophy, its improgressiveness, 
may easily be accounted for. The essence of philosophy be- 
ing, not an acquaintance with empirical results, but the posses- 
sion of the seminal idea, — the possessing it, and the being 
possest by it, in a spiritual union and identification, — it may 
easily happen that philosophers in early ages should be greater 
and wiser than in later ones ; greater, not merely subjectively, 
as being endowed with a mightier genius, but as having re- 
ceived a higher initiation into the mysteries of Truth, as having 
dwelt more familiarly with her, and gazed on her unveiled 
beauty, and laid their heads in her bosom, and caught more of 
the inspiration ever flowing from the eternal wellhead iir 
aKpoTdrrjs Kopv(ji?is noXvmSaKos "ibijs. In fact they have no slight 
advantage over their successors, in that there are fewer extra- 
neous, terrene influences to rise and disturb the serenity of 
their vision. 

Science, on the other hand, is little subject to similar vicissi- 
tudes : at least it has not been so since the days of Bacon. 
Neither in science itself, nor in that lower class of the ^arts 
which arise out of its practical application, has any individual 
work an enduring ultimate value, unless from its execution : 
and this would be altogether independent of its scientific value, 
and would belong to it solely as a work of art. In science it? 
main worth is temporary, as a stepping-stone to something 
beyond. Even the Frincipia, as Newton with characteristic 
modesty entitled his great work, is truly but the leginning of n 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



319 



natural i^hilosophy, and no more an ultimate work, than Watt's 
steam-engine, or Arkwright's spinning-machine. It may have 
a lasting interest from its execution, or from accidental circum- 
stances, over and above its scientific value ; but, as a scientific 
treatise, it was sure to be superseded ; just as the mechanical 
inventions of one generation, Avhatever ingenuity they may 
betoken at the time, are superseded and thrown into the back- 
ground by those of another. Thus in science there is a contin- 
ual progress, a pushing onward : no ground is lost ; and the 
lines keep on advancing. We know all that our ancestors knew, 
and more : the gain is clear, palpable, indisputable. The dis- 
coveries made by former ages have become a permanent por- 
tion of human knowledge, and serve as a stable groundwork to 
build fresh discoveries atop of them ; as these in their turn will 
build up another story, and this again another. Thus it came 
to pass that, as the multitudes in the plain of Shinar fancied 
they could erect a tower, the summit of which should reach to 
heaven, in hke manner the men of science in the last century 
conceived that the continued augmentations of science would in 
time raise them up above all the frailties of humanity. Con- 
founding human nature with this particular exertion of its fac- 
ulties, they assumed that the increase of the latter involved an 
equivalent improvement of the whole. And this mistake was 
the easier, inasmuch as scientific talents have little direct con- 
nexion with our moral nature, and may exist in no low degree 
without support from it. 

At all events the advance of science afforded a kind of sanc- 
tion to the belief in a continually progressive improvement. 
Along with it came the rapid growth of wealth, and of the arts 
which minister to wealth, whether by feeding or by pampering 
it : and these naturally tend to enervate and epicureanize men's 
minds, to " incarnate and imbrute " the soul, " till she quite 
loses The divine property of her first being," to lower the dig- 
nity of thought, and to relax the severe purity of feeling ; so 
that people learn to account happiness the one legitimate object 
of all aim, and that too a happiness derived from nothing higher 
than the temperate, harmless indulgence of our pleasurable 



320 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



appetites. Moreover the chief intellectual exploits of the eigh- 
teenth century consisted, not in the discovery and establish- 
ment of new truths, but in the exposure and rejection of certain 
prejudices and superstitions, or of opinions deemed to be such. 
Now self-conceit, like every other evil spirit, delights in nega- 
tiveness, far more than in anything positive and real. So the 
boasters went on ringing the changes on their own enlighten- 
ment, and on the darkness and ignorance of their ancestors, and 
cried exultingly. We are mvake ! ive are awake ! not from any 
consciousness of active energy and vision, but because they had 
ceast to dream. 

In this manner a belief in the perfectibility of man got into 
vogue, more especially in France ; although the fearful depra- 
vation of morals merely bespoke his corruptibility, and might 
rather have been thought to portend that he was degenerating 
into a brute. Rousseau indeed was seduced, partly by the 
fascination of a dazzling paradox, and partly by the nervous 
antipathies of his morbid genius, to maintain the deleterious- 
ness of the arts and sciences, and that the only effect of civiliza- 
tion had been to debase man from the type of his aboriginal 
perfection. And this notion was not without speciousness, if 
the state of French society in his days was to be taken as ex- 
hibiting the necessary effects of civilization. Thus, as one 
extreme is ever sure to call forth the opposite, the deification of 
civilized man led to the setting up of an altar on mount Gerizim 
in honour of savage man ; and the age reeled to and fro between 
them, passing from the bloody rites of the one to the lascivious 
rites of the other, till the two were mingled together, and Mur- 
der and Lust solemnized their unhallowed nuptials in the ken- 
nel of the Revolution. 

Among the apostles of perfectibility, several tried to combine 
this twofold worship. Tliey mixt up the idea of progressive- 
ness, derived from the condition of civilized man, with a vague 
phantom of perfection, placed by the imagination in a supposi- 
titious state of nature, a new-fangled golden age, anterior to all 
social institutions. Although every plausible argument for anti- 
cipating the future progressiveness of mankind must rest on 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



321 



the fact, that such a hope is justified on the whole by the les- 
sons of the past, they maintained that everything had hitherto 
been vicious and corrupt, that man hitherto had only gone fur- 
ther and further astray, but that nevertheless, by a sudden turn 
to the right about, he would soon reach the islands of the 
blessed. Now a thoughtful survey of the past will indeed force 
us to acknowledge that the progress hitherto has not been uni- 
form, nor always equally apparent. We must not overlook the 
numerous examples which history furnishes in proof that, ac- 
cording to the French proverb, il faut reculer pour mieux sau- 
ter. We are to recognize the necessity that the former things, 
beautiful and excellent as they may have been after their kind, 
should pass away, in order that the ground might be prepared 
for a more widely diffused and more spiritual culture. But 
unless we discern how, through all the revolutions of history, 
life has still been triumphing over death, good over evil, we 
have nothing to warrant an expectation that this will be so 
hereafter. Moreover, though a great and momentous truth is 
involved in the saying, that, when need is highest, then aid is 
niffhest* this comfort belongs only to such as acknowledge that 
man's waywardness is ever crost and overruled by a higher 
power. Whereas those who were most sanguine about the fu- 
ture, spurned the notion of superhuman control ; while they 
only found matter for loathing in the present or the past. To 
their minds " old things all were over-old ; " and they purpost 
to beofin altoorether anew, and " to frame a world of other 
Stuff." 

Nor did this purpose lie idle. In the work of destruction too 
they prospered : not so in that of reconstruction. As the spirit 
of the age was wholly negative, as men could find nothing to 
love or revere in earth or in heaven, in time or in eternity, it 
was not to be wondered at that they set up their own under- 
standing on the throne of a degraded, godless, chance-ridden 
universe. But having no love or reverence, they wrought in 
the dark, and dasht their heads against the laws and sanctities, 
to which they would not bow. It may be regarded as one of 
those instances of irony so frequent in history, that the moment 
14* u 



322 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



chosen by man to assert liis perfectibility should have been the 
very moment Avhen all the powers of evil were about to be let 
loose, and to run riot over the earth. Happiness was the idol ; 
and lo ! the idol burst ; and the spectral form of Misery rose 
out of it, and stretcht out its gaunt hand over the heads of the 
nations ; and millions of hearts shrank and were frozen by its 
touch. Liberty was the watchword, liberty and equality : and 
an iron despotism strode from north to south, and from east to 
west ; and all men cowered at its approach, and croucht be- 
neath its feet, and were trampled on, and found the equality 
they coveted in universal prostration. Peace was the promise ; 
and the fulfilment was more than twenty years of fierce deso- 
lating war. 

The whirlblast came ; the desert sands rose up, 

And shaped themselves : from earth to heaven they stood, 

As though they were the pillars of a temple 

Built by Omnipotence in its own honour. 

But the blast pauses, and their shaping spirit 

Is fled : the mighty columns were but sand ; 

And lazy snakes trail o'er the level ruins. 

Yet Condorcet, as is well known, even during the Reign of 
Terrour, when himself doomed to the guillotine, employed the 
time of his imprisonment in drawing up a record of his specu- 
lations on the perfectibility of mankind : and full of errour as 
his views are, one cannot withhold all admiration from a daunt- 
lessness which could thus persevere in hoping against hope. 

Speculations of this sort are so remote from the practical 
common-sense and the narrowminded empiricism, which were 
the chief characteristics inherited by English philosojihy from 
its master, Locke, that the doctrine of perfectibility hardly found 
any strenuous advocate amongst us, until it was taken up by 
Godwin. The good and pious saw that wealth and luxury had 
not come without their usual train of moral evils; and they 
foreboded the judgements which those evils must call down. 
Berkeley, for instance, in one of his letters, quotes the above- 
cited lines of Horace, as about to be verified in the increasing 
depravation of the English people. In his Essay toward pre- 
venting the Ruin of Great Britain, occasioned by the failure of 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



323 



the Southsea scheme, he says : " Little can be hoped, if we 
consider the corrupt degenerate age we live in. Our symptoms 
are so bad, that, notwithstanding all the care and vigilance of 
the legislature, it is to be feared the final period of our state ap- 
proaches." And in his Verses on the Prospect of planting Arts 
and Learning in America, after speaking of the decay of Europe, 
he adds : 

Westward the course of empire takes its way: 

The first four acts already past, 
A fifth shall close the drama with the day: 

Time's noblest offspring is the last. 

Hartley too, who, in spite of his material fantasmagoria, ranks 
high among the few men of a finer and more genial intellect 
during that dreary period, repeatedly speaks of the world as 
hastening to its end, and as doomed to perish on account of its 
excessive corruption ; and he enumerates six causes, " which 
seem more especially to threaten ruin and dissolution to the 
present states of Christendom." " Christendom (thus he closes 
his work) seems ready to assume the place and lot of the Jews, 
after they had rejected their Messiah, the Saviour of the world. 
Let no one deceive himself or others. The present circum- 
stances of the world are extraordinary and critical beyond what 
has ever yet happened. If we refuse to let Christ reign over 
us as our Redeemer and Saviour, we must be slain before his 
face as enemies, at his second coming." Hartley does indeed 
look forward to " the restoration of the Jews, and the universal 
establishment of Christianity, as the causes of great happiness, 
which will change the face of this world much for the better " 
(Prop. 85) : but this is a change to be wrought by a super- 
human power, though not without human means (Prop. 84), 
and so does not lie within the range of our present inquiry ; 
any more than Henry More's beautiful visions, or those of oth- 
ers, concerning the millennium. 

Hume, than whom few men have been more poorly endowed 
with the historical spirit, or less capable of understanding or 
sympathizing Avith any unseen form of human nature, lays down 
in his Essay on the Rise and Progress of the Arts and Sciences., 



324 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



" that, when the arts and sciences come to perfection in any 
state, from that moment they naturally, or rather necessarily 
decline, and seldom or never revive ; " a proposition ^vhich im- 
plies a sheer confusion of thought, as though the course and 
term of the arts and sciences were the same, and which he tries 
to support by the feeblest and shallowest arguments. In his 
Essay on Refinement in the Arts, he declares that " such a trans- 
formation of mankind, as would endow them with every virtue, 
and free them from every vice," being impossible, " concerns 
not the magistrate, who very often can only cure one vice hy an- 
other.'^ Such is the paltry morality, the miserable self-abandon- 
ment, to which utilitarianism leads. Recognizing nothing as 
good or evil in itself, it will foster one vice, to counteract what 
it deems a more hurtful one. He too has what he calls an Idea 
of a perfect Commonwealth : but it deals merely with the form 
of the government, being drawn up with the purpose of avoiding 
the errours into wdiich Plato and Sir Thomas More, he says, 
fell, in making an improvement in the moral character of the 
people an essential part of their Utopias. Yet what would be 
the worth of a perfect commonwealth without such an improve- 
ment ? or what its stability ? Hume's name still excites so 
much terrour, that it might be w^ell if some able thinker and 
reasoner were to collect a century of blunders from his Essays : 
nor would it be difficult to do so, even without touching upon 
those which refer to questions of taste. 

The belief in perfectibility would indeed have chimed in 
with many of the prevailing opinions on other subjects ; with 
that, for instance, which stript the idea of God of his moral 
attributes, or resolved them into partial expressions of infinite 
benevolence ; as well as with the corresponding opinion whicli 
regards evil as a mere defect, and entirely discards the sinful- 
ness of sin. For, were evil nothing but an accident in our na- 
ture, removable by human means, it would argue a cowardl} 
distrust, not to believe that the mind, which is achieving such 
wonders in spreading man's empire, intellectual and material, 
over the outward world, will be able to devise some plan for 
subduing his inward foe. Yet the Bssay on Political Justice 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



325 



does not seem to have produced much effect even at the time, 
in the way of conviction, except on a few youthful enthusiasts ; 
though it added no little to the consternation among the retain- 
ers of the existing order of things. So deplorable however 
was the dearth of thought in England after the death of Burke, 
that, while Godwin's deeper fallacies were scarcely toucht by his 
opponents, they buoyed themselves up with the notion that he 
had been overthrown by the bulkiest instance of an ignoratio 
elenchi in the whole history of pseudo-philosophy, — the Essay 
on Population; a work which may have merits in other re- 
spects, but which, with reference to its primary object, the ref- 
utation of Condorcet and Godwin, is utterly impotent ; all its 
arguments proceeding on a hypothesis totally different from 
that which it undertakes to impugn ; as has been convincingly 
shewn by the great logician of our times in one of the Notes 
from the Pockethooh of an English Opium-eater. Indeed I 
hardly know whether the success of the Essay on Population, 
in dispelling the bright visions of a better state of things, be 
not a stronger argument against the perfectibility of man, than 
any contained in its pages ; evincing as that success does such 
a readiness to adopt any fallacy which flatters our prejudices, 
and bolsters up our imaginary interests. 

It was in Germany that the idea of the progressiveness of 
mankind first revealed itself under a form more nearly ap- 
proaching to the truth: which indeed might have been expected 
from the peculiar character of the nation. As the Germans 
surpass other nations in the power of discerning and under- 
standing the spirits of other climes and times, they have been 
the first to perceive the true idea of the history of the world 
in its living fulness and richness : and, here, as in other depart- 
ments of knowledge, it is only by meditating on the laws ob- 
servable in the past, that we can at all prognosticate the future. 

What then is the true idea of the history of the world ? 
That question may now be answered briefly and plainly. For 
though it may take thousands of years to catch sight of an idea, 
yet, when it has once been clearly apprehended, it is wont to 
manifest itself by its own light. The generic distinction be- 



^20 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



tween man and the lower orders of animals, if we look at them 
historically, — the distinction out of which it arises that man- 
kind alone have, properly speaking, a history, or become the 
agents and subjects in a series of diverse events, — is, that, 
while each individual animal in a manner fulfills the whole 
purpose of its existence, nothing of the sort can be predicated 
of any man that ever lived, but only of the race. All the or- 
gans and faculties with which the animal is endowed, are called 
into action : all the tendencies discoverable in its nature are re- 
alized. AVhereas every man has a number of dormant powers, 
a number of latent tendencies, the purpose of wiiich can never 
be accomplisht, except in the historical development of the 
race ; not in the race as existing at any one time, nor even in 
the whole of time past, but of the race as diffused through the 
whole period of time allotted to it, past, present, and to come. 
For thus much we can easily see, that there are- many purposes 
of man's being, many tendencies in his nature, which have 
never yet been adequately fulfilled ; though we are quite 
unable to make out when that fulfilment will take place, or 
whither it will lead us. Moreover there is a universal law, of 
which we have a twofold assurance, — both from observation 
of all the works of nature, and from the wisdom of their au- 
thor, — that no tendency has been implanted in any created 
thing, but sooner or later shall receive its accomplishment, — 
that God's purposes cannot be bafiled, and that his word can 
never return to him empty. Hence it follows that all those 
tendencies in man's nature, which cannot be fulfilled immedi- 
ately and contemporaneously, will be fulfilled gradually and 
successively in the course Avhich mankind are to run. Accord- 
ingly the philosophical idea of the history of the world will be, 
that it is to exhibit the gradual unfolding of all the faculties of 
man's intellectual and moral being, — those which he has in 
common with the brute animals, may be brought to perfection 
at once in him, as they are in them, — under every shade of 
circumstance, and in every variety of combination. This de- 
velopment in the species will proceed in the same order as it is 
wont to follow in those individuals whose souls have been drawn 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



327 



out into the light of consciousness. In its earlier stages the 
lower faculties will exercise a sway only disturbed now and 
tlien by the awakening of some moral instinct ; and then by 
degrees will be superseded and brought into subjection by those 
of a higher order, coming forward first singly, and then con- 
jointly; with a perpetual striving after the period when the 
whole man shall be called forth in perfect harmony and sym- 
metry, according to Aristotle's definition of happiness, as -v/^-vx^? 
evepyeia kut dperrju reXeiav. In a word, the purpose and end of 
the history of the world is to realize the idea of humanity. All 
the while too, as in the outward world there is a mutual adap- 
tation and correspondence between the course of the seasons, 
and the fruits they are to mature, so may we feel assured that, 
at every stage in the progress of history, such light and warmth 
will be vouchsafed to mankind from above, as they may be able 
to bear, and as their temporary needs may require. 

I know not whether this idea was ever fully and explicitly 
enunciated by any writer anterior to Hegel. Indeed it pre- 
supposes a complete delineation of the process by which the 
human mind itself is developt, such as is hardly to be found 
prior to his Phenomenology. Even by Hegel the historical 
process is regarded too much as a mere natural evolution, with- 
out due account of that fostering superintendence by which 
alone any real good is elicited. But the idea was already 
rising into the sphere of vision above half a century ago, and 
has been contemplated since then under a variety of particular 
aspects. Lessing, in one of his latest, most precious, and pro- 
foundest works, — a little treatise written in 1780, in which, 
after having with much labour purged himself from the nat- 
uralism and empiricism of his contemporaries, he reaches the 
very borders of a Christian philosophy, — speaks of revelation 
in its several stages as the gradual education of the human race. 
His prophecy, that the time of a new everlasting Gospel will 
come, may indeed startle those who are unacquainted with the 
deplorably effete decrepit state of the German church in his 
days : and had he not lived In an unbelieving age, he would 
have recognized, like Luther, that the Gospel which we have 



328 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



already, is at once everlasting and ever-new : else the spirit of 
his prophecy has been in great measure accomplisht of late 
years, by the revival of religion, and the restoration of the old 
Gospel to much of its former power and majesty. 

Herder, who treated the philosophy of history in his greatest 
work, and who made it the central object of all his studies, yet, 
owing to the superficialness of his metaphysical knowledge, 
had but vague conceptions with regard to the progress of man- 
kind. He had discerned no principle of unity determining its 
course and its end. His genius was much happier in seizing 
and describing the peculiarities of the various tribes of man- 
kind, more especially in their less cultivated state, when almost 
entirely dependent on the circumstances of time and place : 
and such contemplations were better suited to the sentimental 
pantheism, into which the spirit of the eighteenth century re- 
coiled from tlie formal monotheism it had inherited, which had 
found its main utterance in Rousseau, and with which Herder 
was much tainted, like many of the more genial minds of his 
age, and of those since. 

Kant on the other hand, looking at history in its ordinary 
political sense, lays down, in a brief but masterly essay publisht 
in 1784, that the history of the human race, as a whole, may be 
regarded as the fulfilling of a secret purpose of nature to work 
out a perfect constitution ; this being the only condition in 
which all the tendencies implanted in man can be brought to 
perfection. In a later essay, in 1798, he remarks, with his 
characteristic subtilty, that, even if we assume the human race 
to have been constantly advancing or receding hitherto, this 
will not warrant a conclusion that it must necessarily continue 
to move in the same direction hereafter ; for that it may have 
just reacht a tropical point, and may be verging on its perihe- 
lion, or its aphelion, from which its course would be reverst. 
Hence he looks about for some fact, which may afford him a 
surer ground to argue on : and such a fact he finds in the en- 
thusiastic sympathy excited throughout Europe by the outbreak 
of the French Revolution. This gives him a satisfactory as- 
surance that the human race will not only be progressive here- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



329 



after, but has always been so hitherto. Perhaps a subtilty far 
inferior to Kant's might shew that this argument is not so very- 
much sounder than every other which may be drawn from the 
history of the world. But his writings in his later years betray 
that the vigour of his faculties was declining : and one of the 
ways in which the great destroyer was at times pleased to 
display his power, was by building a house on the sand, after 
razing that on the rock. It was thus that, having swept away 
every antecedent system of ethics, he spun a new one out of 
his categorical imperative. 

During the last fifty years, the idea of history as an organic 
whole, regulated by certain laws inherent in the constitution of 
man, — as a macrocosm analogous to the microcosm contained 
in every breast, — has been a favourite subject of speculation 
with the Germans. There are few among their eminent writ- 
ers Avho have not occasionally thrown out thoughts on the 
subject : many have treated it, either partially or in its totality, 
in distinct works : and it has been applied with more or less 
abihty and intelligence to the history of religion, of philosophy, 
of poetry, and of the arts. In each it has been attempted to 
arrange and exhibit the various phenomena which are the sub- 
iects of history, not in a mere accidental sequence, after the 
practice of former times and of other countries, but as con- 
nected parts of a great whole, — to trace what may be called 
the metamorphoses of history, in their genesis and orderly suc- 
cession. Of late too these theories have been imported into 
France, especially by the Saint-Simonians, but have mostly 
been frenchified during the journey, and turned into stiff 
coarse abstractions : added to which the national incapacity to 
contemplate an idea, makes the French always impatient to 
realize it under some determinate form ; instead of acknowl- 
edging that it can only be realized, when it realizes itself, and 
that it may do this under any form, if it be duly instilled into 
the mind as a living principle of thought. 

From what has been said, we may perceive that the progress 
of mankind is not in a straight line, uniform and unbroken. 
On the contrary it is subject to manifold vicissitudes, interrup- 



330 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



tions, and delays ; ever advancing on the whole indeed, but 
often receding in one quarter, while it pushes forward in an- 
other; and sometimes even retreating altogether for a while, 
that it may start afresh with greater and more irresistible force. 
Wordsworth compares it to "the progress of a river, which 
both in its smaller reaches and larger turnings is frequently 
forced back toward its fountains by objects which cannot other- 
wise be eluded or overcome : yet with an accompanying im- 
pulse, that will ensure its advancement hereafter, it is either 
gaining strength every hour, or secretly conquering some diffi- 
culty, by a labour that contributes as effectually to further it in 
its course, as when it moves forward uninterrupted in a direct 
line." It is like the motion of the earth, which, beside its 
yearly course round the sun, has a daily revolution through 
successive periods of light and darkness. It is like the pro- 
gress of the year, in which, after the blossoms of spring have 
dropt off, a long interval elapses before the autumnal fruits 
come forward conspicuously in their stead : and these too anon 
decay ; and the fohage and herbage of one year mixes up with 
the mould for the enriching of another. It is like the life of 
an individual, in which every day adds something, and every 
day takes away something: but it by no means follows that 
what is added must be more valuable than what is taken 
away. 

When coupled with a right understanding of its object, the 
belief in the progressiveness of mankind has no tendency to 
foster presumption ; which in its ordinary acceptation it is apt 
to do. For the narrowminded and ignorant, being unable to 
project their thoughts beyond their own immediate circle, or to 
discriminate between what is really essential and valuable in 
any state of society, and what is accidental and derives its im- 
portance solely from habit, are prone to assume that no condi- 
tion can well be endurable except their own, and to despise 
those who are unfortunate enough to differ from them, even in 
the cut of their coats, as so many Goths or Hottentots. In 
fact, this is the usual, as well as the original, meaning of the 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



331 



word barbarian : a barbarian is a person who does not talk as 
we talk, or dress as we dress, or eat as we eat ; in short, who is 
so audacious as not to follow our practice in all the trivialities 
of manners. No doubt too there are people to whom it is quite 
incomprehensible, how all the world did not die of weariness 
and intellectual starvation in the days when there were no 
newspapers, or stagecoaches, or circulating libraries, or penny 
encyclopedias. Now such persons grow very proud and loud, 
when they fancy they have a philosophical proposition to back 
their pretensions: forthwith they enlist as drummers, to beat 
the march of mind. And beat it they do deafeningly, at every 
corner of a street, in an age of a superficial character, like the 
present, the advantages of which strike every eye, while they 
keep us from looking at anything beyond, — from observing the 
poisonous vermin that swarm amid the luxuriant rank vegeta- 
tion, the morass it grows out of, and the malaria it breeds. 

It is true, this results in part from that instinctive power by 
which habit attaches us to whatever we are accustomed to ; 
thus, by a wise and beneficent ordinance, adapting our nature 
to the endless varieties of our condition and circumstances, and 
enabling us to find happiness wheresoever we may be placed. 
Here, as in so many other cases, it is by " overleaping itself, 
and falling on the other side," by passing out of its own posi- 
tive region into that of negativeness, that a feeling, in itself 
sound and wholesome, becomes erroneous and mischievous. 
At the same time, in so doing it perverts and belies itself For 
it is no way necessary that a fondness for any one object should 
so turn the current of our affections, as to draw them away 
from all others ; still less that it should sour them against oth- 
ers. On the contrary, love, when true and deep, opens and 
expands the heart, and fills it with universal goodwill. Where- 
as exclusiveness, of whatsoever kind, arises from the monopo- 
hzing spirit of selfishness. They who look contemptuously 
upon other things, in comparison Avith the chosen objects of 
their regard, do so not from any transcendent affection for those 
objects in themselves, but merely as the objects which they 
vouchsafe to honour ; and because they think it ministers to 



332 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



their glory to sip the cream of the whole earth, while the rest 
of mankind are fain to swallow the skim-milk. In such a tem- 
per, of mind there is no pure, hearty satisfaction, no pure, 
hearty delight even in the very objects thus extolled. If a 
person is really at ease, and thoroughly contented with his own 
state, he will be glad that his neighbours should feel a like con- 
tentment in theirs. Thus patriotism becomes the ground, and 
indeed is the only sure ground, of cosmopolitism. 

When we call to remembrance however, that the course of 
time is markt, not by the rectilinear flight, but by the oscilla- 
tions and pulsations of life, — that life does not flow in a straight, 
conspicuous stream into its ocean-home, but sinks sooner or later 
into the subterraneous caverns of death, — that light does not 
keep on brightening into a more intense eff'ulgence, but, in com- 
passion to the infirmity of our organs, allows them to bathe ever 
and anon and seek refreshment in darkness, — that the moral 
year, like the natural, is not one continued spring and summer, 
but has its seasons of decay, during wliich new growths are 
preparing, — that the ways of Providence in this world, as crost 
and interrupted by the self-will of man, are not solely from good 
to better, but often, in a merciful condescension to our frailty, 
through evil to good, — Ave shall understand that a more ad- 
vanced stage of civilization does not necessarily imply a better 
state of society, least of all in any one particular country ; which, 
it is possible, may already have played out its part, and be 
doomed to fall, while others rise up in its stead. Indeed so far 
is our superiority to our ancestors from being a self-evident, no- 
torious truth, the best of all proofs of our being superior to them 
would be our not thinking ourselves so. 

Nay, even if the progress were uniform and continuous, what 
plea should we have for boasting ? or how can we dare pride 
ourselves on a superiority to our ancestors, which we owe, not to 
our own exertions, but to theirs ? how can we allow that supe- 
riority to awaken any feeling, except of the awful responsibility 
it imposes on us, and of reverent gratitude to those through 
whose labours and endurance we have been raised to our pres- 
ent elevation ? 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



333 



That an acknowledgement of the inferiority of our own times 
is no way inconsistent with the firmest assurance as to the gen- 
eral progressiveness of mankind, may be seen in the Lectures 
on the Character of the Age delivered by Fichte at Berlin in 
1804. After laying down, as the scheme of the history of our 
world, that mankind are to be trained to render that entire obe- 
dience to the law of reason as a freewill-offering, which in their 
primitive state they rendered unconsciously to the instinct of 
reason, — he divides the life of the human race into five dis- 
tinct periods, and describes the present or third period, as " the 
epoch of man's emancipation immediately from all. binding 
authority, and mediately from all subjection to the rational in- 
stinct, and to reason altogether under every shape, — the age of 
absolute indifference to all truth, and of utter unrestraint with- 
out any guidance, — the state of complete sinfulness." At the 
same time he declared that this dismal transition-period, — for 
drawing the features of which he found abundant materials in 
the political, moral, and religious debasement of Germany at 
the close of the last and the beginning of the present century, — 
was verging on its close ; and that mankind would shortly 
emerge from this lowest deep into the state of incipient justifica- 
tion. With all his perversities he was a noble, heroic patriot, 
great as a philosopher, and still greater as a man : and one re- 
joices that he lived long enough to see, what he Avould deem a 
sign that his hopes were about to be fulfilled, the enthusiastic 
spirit which animated regenerate Germany in 1813. 

Thus, while a right understanding of the course and purpose 
of history must needs check our bragging of the advantages of 
our own age, neither will it allow us to murmur on account of 
its defects. What though the blossoms have dropt off? the fruit 
Avill not ripen without. AYhat though the fruit have fallen or 
been consumed? so it must, — seeing that it cannot keep its 
freshness and flavour for ever, — in order that a new crop may 
be produced. Surely it is idle to repine that a tree does not 
stand through the year with a load of rotten apples. Precious 
as may have been the qualities or the institutions which have 
past away, we shall recognize that their subsistence was incom- 



334 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



patible with the new order of things ; that the locks which curl 
so gracefully round the downy, glowing cheeks of the child, 
would ill become the man's furrowed brow, and must grow 
white in time ; but that then too they will have a beauty of 
their own, if the face express that sobriety and calmness and 
purity which accord with them ; and that every age in the life 
of a nation, as of an individual, has its advantages and its bene- 
fits, if we call them forth, and make a right use of them. For 
here too, unless we thwart or pervert the order of Nature, a 
principle of compensation is ever working. It is in this thought 
that Tacitus finds consolation (Annal. iii. 55) : Nisi forte rebus 
cu?ictis inest quidam velut orhis, ut quemadmodum temporum 
vices, ita morum vertantur : nec omnia apud priores meliora ; 
sed nostra quoque aetas midta laudis et artium imitanda posteris 
tulit. 

Above all, he who has observed how throughout history, 
while man is continually misusing good, and turning it into 
evil, the overruling sway of God's Providence out of evil is 
ever bringing forth good, will never be cast down, or led to 
despond, or to slacken his efforts, however untoward the imme- 
diate aspect of things may appear. For he will know that, 
whenever he is labouring in the cause of heaven, the powers 
of heaven are working with him ; that, though the good he is 
aiming at may not be attainable in the very form he has in 
view, the ultimate result will assuredly be good ; that were man 
diligent in fulfilling his part, this result would be immediate ; 
and that no one, who is thus diligent, shall lose his precious 
reward, of seeing that every good deed is a part of the life of 
the world. tj. 



Another advantage attending the true idea of the progress of 
mankind is, that it alone enables us to estimate former ages 
justly. In looking back on the past, we are apt to fall into one 
of two errours. One class of historians treat the several mo- 
ments of history as distinct, insulated wholes, existing solely by 
themselves and for themselves, apart from all connexion with 
the general destinies of mankind. Another class regard them 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



335 



as so many steps in the ladder by which man had to mount to 
liis present station. Now both these views are fallacious, the 
last the most so. For the former may coexist with a lively 
conception of individual reality, and contains nothing neces- 
sarily disparaging to the men of bygone generations ; though it 
will not aid us to discern their relative bearings and purposes. 
Whereas, in ascending a ladder, we think the steps were merely 
made to get up by, not to rest on ; we seldom pause to contem- 
plate the varying prospects which spread out successively be- 
fore each; and by a scarcely avoidable delusion, everything 
above us being hidden in mist, we mistake our own landing- 
place for the summit, and fancy the ladder was set up mainly 
for us, in order that we might climb it. Yet our post may be 
less commanding than several lower ones : some fresh obstacle 
may have come across us, to narrow our field of view : or our 
higlith itself may render the objects indistinct. At all events, 
when we are looking down on them, we are unable to make out 
their proportions, and only perceive how they are connected 
with each other, not what they are in themselves. Indeed the 
other unphilosophical class of historians are also liable to a 
similar mistake. Not having a right insight into the necessary 
distinctions of ages and nations, they too measure others by 
their own standard, and so misunderstand and misjudge them. 

In this, as in every idea, there is a union of opposites. Man, 
whether in his individual, or in his corporate capacity, is neither 
to be regarded solely as the end of his own being, nor solely as 
a mean and instrument employed for the w^ell-being of others, 
— nor again as partly one and partly the other, — but as 
both at once, and each wholly. Nay, so inseparable is this 
twofold office, and indivisible, that he cannot rightly fulfill 
either, except by fulfilling the other. He has a positive and 
significant part to act in the great drama of the world's life : 
and that part derives a double importance from not being 
designed to pass away like a dream, but to leave a lasting im- 
pression on the destinies and character of the race. Moreover 
it is by diligently performing the part assigned to him, by top- 
ping it, as the phrase is, that he does his utmost to forward the 



330 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



general action of the drama. So that, to understand any past 
age, we should consider it in a twofold light ; first gain the full- 
est and most definite conception of its peculiar features and 
character ; and then contemplate it with reference to the place 
it holds in the history of the w^orld. What was it ? and what 
did it accomplish ? These are the first questions : but others 
follow them. How came it to be what it was? how did it 
arise out of what went before ? and what did it leave to that 
which came after ? What phase of human nature did it ex- 
press ? what distinctive idea did it embody ? what power did it 
realize ? of what truths >vas it the exponent ? and what portion 
of these its attributes has past away with it ? what portion 
has been taken up and incorporated with the living spirit of the 
race ? 

Let me exemplify these remarks by the manner in which the 
history of philosophy has been treated. A number of writers, 
of whom Brucker may stand as the representative, have aimed 
at little else than giving a naked abstract or summary of the 
successive systems which have prevailed ; translating the termi- 
nology into that of their own days ; but with scarcely a concep- 
tion that every system of philosophy, deserving the name, has 
an organic inward, as well as a logical and outward unity, and 
springs from a seminal idea ; or that there is an orderly genesis 
by which one system issues from another. Yet, seeing that 
philosophy is the reflexion of the human mind upon itself, on 
its own nature and faculties, and on those supersensuous ideas 
and forms which it discovers within itself, the law^ and mould 
of its being, the history of philosophy, it is jolain, must be the 
history of the human mind, must follow the same regular pro- 
gression, and go through the same transmigrations. Viewed in 
this light, the history of philosophy has a pervading unity, and 
a deep interest, and is intimately connected with the life of the 
race. But in its usual form it merely exhibits a series of logi- 
cal diagrams, which seem to be no way concerned with the 
travails and throes of human nature, — which are nothing more 
than the images of Narcissus looking dotingly at himself ever 
and anon in the stream of Time, — and which " come like 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



337 



shadows, so depart," until we are wearied by the dull, ghastly- 
procession, and cry, with Macbeth, We 7/ see no more. 

Inadequate however and tantalizing as such a history is, it 
does at least furnish an outline of the forms under which Phi- 
losophy has manifested itself : it shews us how multifarious 
those forms are, and supplies us with some of the materials for 
discerning the law of their succession. We perceive in it how 
the appetite of unity has ever been the great characteristic of 
the Philosophical mind, and how that mind has ever been drawn 
by an irrepressible instinct to bring all things to one, and to 
seek the central One in all. Hence these histories are of greater 
value, or at least come nearer to fulfilling the idea of a history, 
than such detacht observations as Dugald Stewart has strung 
together for the sake of exhibiting a view of the progress of 
metaphysical philosophy. From the latter no one would be 
able to frame any conception of the systems enumerated, unless 
he were already acquainted with them. Indeed one should 
hardly make out, except from the objections urged every now 
and then against the love of system, that there is anything like 
a desire of unity in the philosophical spirit, any aim beyond 
certain more or less wide generalizations from the phenomena 
of the intellectual and material world. Instead of trying to 
give a faithful representation of former systems in their indi- 
viduality, and their reciprocal connexion, pointing out the wants 
they were successively designed to satisfy, shewing how those 
wants arose, and how they could not but arise, and then tracing 
the evolution of each pervading idea, he has mostly contented 
himself with picking out a few incidental remarks, and these 
often no way pertaining to the general scheme of systematic 
thought, but such reflexions as are suggested to an acute and 
intelligent mind by observation of the world. The object which 
guides him in the selection of these remarks, is, to shew how 
the philosophers of former times caught glimpses of certain 
propositions, which he deems to be the great truths of his own 
age: and he almost seems to have fancied that the human 
mind had been heaving and panting and toiling from the begin- 
ning, and ransacking the quarries of Nature, and building up 
15 V 



338 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



the mighty pyramid of thought, in order that Reid should lay 
on the headstone, and take his stand on the summit. Hereby 
a method, which is solely applicable to the history of science, is 
transferred to that of philosophy. Whereas the worth of a 
philosophical system is only to be appreciated in its unity and 
integrity, not from two or three casual remarks ; which are a 
still more fallacious criterion, than detacht passages are of the 
merit of a poem. For the power of drawing inferences from 
observation is totally distinct from that of discerning elementary 
ideas, and is often found without a particle of it ; for instance 
in those who by way of eminence are termed men of practical 
minds. u. 



I have been trying to shew that the belief in the perfectibility, 
or even in the progressiveness of mankind, is a late growth in 
the world of thought, — to explain how and under what form it 
originated, and how much of errour has been mixt up with it. 
Are we then to cast away the idea of perfectibility, as an idle, 
baseless, delusive, vainglorious phantom ? God forbid ! And 
in truth He has forbidden it. He forbad it, when He set His 
own absolute perfection as the aim of our endeavour before us, 
by that blessed command — Be ye perfect, even as your Father 
in heaven is perfect. 

To deny the perfectibiHty of mankind is to charge these 
words with pompous inanity. They declare that the perfect 
renewal of God's image in man is not a presumptuous vision, not 
like a madman's attempt to clutch a handful of stars, but an 
object of righteous enterprise, which we may and ought to long 
for and to strive after. And as God's commands always imply 
the possibility of their fulfilment, and impart the power of ful- 
filling them to those who seek it, this, which was designed for 
all mankind, was accompanied by another, providing that all 
mankind should be called to aspire to that sublime perfection, 
should be taught by what steps they are to mount to it, and 
should receive help mighty enough to nerve their souls for the 
work. A body of men was instituted for the express purpose 
of teaching all nations to do all the things that Christ l^.nd com- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



339 



manded, and of baptizing them in the name of Him who alone 
can give man the power of subduing whatever tliere is of evil 
in his nature, and of maturing whatever there is of good. 

Be yc perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. This 
is the angel-trumpet which summons man to the warfare of 
Duty. This, and nothing less than this, is the glorious prize set 
before him. Do our hearts swell with pride at the thought that 
this is what we ought to be, what we might be? A single 
glance at the state of the world, at what we ourselves are, must 
quench that pride, and turn it into shame. u. 

When quoting Dry den's epigram on Milton (p. 298), I 
called it stupid. Is this an indecorous expression to apply to 
anything that comes from so renowned a writer ? I would not 
willingly fail in due respect to any man of genius, who has ex- 
ercised his genius worthily : but I cannot feel much respect for 
the author of Limherham, who turned Milton's Eve into a vulgar 
coquette, and who defiled Shakspeare's State of Innocence by 
introducing the rottenhearted carnalities of Charles the Second's 
age into the Tempest. As to his epigram on Milton, it seems to 
me nearly impossible to pack a greater number of blundering 
thoughts into so small a space, than are crowded into its last 
four lines. Does the reader remember it ? 

Three poets, in three distant ages bom, 
Greece, Italy, and England did adorn. 
The first in loftiness of thought surpast ; 
The next in majesty: in both the last. 
The force of Nature could no further go : 
To make a third, she joined the former two. 

As these lines are on the author of Paradise Lost, we know 
who must be the other poets spoken of : else we should hardly 
divine it from the descriptions given of them ; which would fit 
any other writers nearly as well. For what feature of the Homer- 
ic poems is designated by " loftiness of thought " ? what feature 
of Virgil by "majesty," — majesty contradistinguish t from lofti- 
ness of thought ? What is loftiness of thought in a poet as exist- 
ing without majesty ? what majesty, without loftiness of thought ? 
unless it be the majesty of Louis the Fourteenth's full-bottomed 



340 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



wig, or of one of Dryden's own stage-kings. For, if there be 
not something incongruous in these two qualities, if they had 
already coexisted in Homer and Virgil, what is the prodigy of 
their union in Milton ? How totally are the characters of the 
two poets mist in these words ! They give no notion, or a most 
erroneous one, of Homer ; and a very inadequate one of Virgil. 
Milton however is so highly favoured, that he unites both quali- 
ties. His "majesty" is not, like Virgil's, without "loftiness of 
thought ; " nor his " loftiness of thought," like Homer's, without 
" majesty." 

And the combination of these two elements, which are almost 
identical, exhausts the powers of Nature ! This is one of the 
blustering pieces of bombast thrown out by those who neither 
know nor think what they are talking of Eschylus, and Sopho- 
cles, and Pindar, and Aristophanes, and Dante, and Cervantes, 
and Shakspeare had lived, — every one of them having more 
in common with Homer than Milton had : yet a man dares say, 
that the power of God has been worn out by creating Homer 
and Virgil ! and that he could do nothing after, except by strap- 
ping them together. 

Nor can there well be more complete ignorance of the char- 
acteristics of genius. Secondary men, men of talents, may be 
mixt up, like an apothecary's prescription, of so many grains of 
one quality, and so many of another. But genius is one, indi- 
vidual, indivisible : like a star, it dwells alone. That which is 
essential in a man of genius, his central spirit, shews itself once, 
and passes away, never to return : and in few men is this more 
conspicuous than in Milton, in whom there is nothing Homeric, 
and hardly anything Virgilian. In sooth, one might as accu- 
rately describe the elephant, as being made up of the force of 
the lion and the strength of the tiger. 

A like inauspicious star has presided at the birth of many 
of the epigrams on great men. The authors of them, in their 
desire to say something very grand and striking, have been 
regardless of truth and propriety. What can be more turgid 
and extravagant than Pope's celebrated epitaph on Newton ? 
in which he audaciously blots out all the knowledge of former 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



341 



ages, that he may give his hero a dark ground to stand out 
from ; forgetting that in the intellectual world also the process 
of Nature is not by fits and starts, but gradually, — that the 
highest mountains do not spring up out of the plain, but are 
approacht by lower ranges, — and that no sun ever rises with- 
out a preluding twilight. 

The best parallel to Pope's couplet, — for it is scarcely a 
parody, — is Nicolai's silly one on Mendelsohn : 

Esist ein Gott : so sagte Moses schon: 
Doch den Beweis gab Moses Mendelsohn. 

Which may be Englisht without much disparagement by the 

following doggerel : 

There is a God, said Moses long ago : 

But Moses Mendelsohn first proved 't Avas so. 

Far more ingenious than any of the preceding epigrams, — 
because it contains a thought, though a false one, — is Bembo's 
on Raphael : 

Ille hie est Raphael, timuit quo sospite vincI 
Rerum magna parens, etmoriente mori. 

Yet, neat and clever as this may be, a true imagination would 
revolt from charging Nature either with jealousy or with de- 
spondency. She may be endowed with the purer elementary 
feelings of humanity. She may be represented as sympathizing 
with man, as rejoicing with him or at him, as mourning with 
him or over him. But surely it is absurd that she, who is here 
called rerum riiagna parens, she who brings forth all the beauty 
and glory of mountains and vallies, of lakes and rivers and seas, 
of winter and spring and summer, — she, who every evening 
showers thousands of stars over the sky, who calls the sun out 
of his eastern chamber, and welcomes him with bridal blushes, 
and leads him across the heavens, — she who has gone on for 
thousands of years pouring forth bright and graceful forms with 
inexhaustible variety and prodigality, — she who fills the im- 
mensity of space with beauty, and is ever renewing it through 
the immensity of time, — should be ruffled by a petty feeling of 
rivalry for one of her children ; or should fear that the power, 



342 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



which had seen countless generations and nations, and even 
worlds, rise and set, was about to expire, because one of her 
blossoms, although it was one of the loveliest, had dropt off 
from the tree of humanity. 

In all these eulogies we find the same trick. The authors 
think they cannot sufficiently exalt the persons they want to 
praise, except by speaking derogatorily and slightingly of some 
other power. Nature is vilified, to magnify Milton and Ra- 
phael ; all the science from Archimedes down to Ke^Dler and 
Galileo, for the sake of glorifying Newton. In the same style 
is Johnson's couplet on Shakspeare : 

Existence saw him spurn her bounded reign; 
And panting Time toiled after him in vain. 

What the latter of these two monstrous lines was intended to 
mean, it is difficult to guess. For even Johnson's grandiloquence 
could hardly have taken this mode of expressing that Shak- 
speare violated the unities. The former line is one of the most 
infelicitous ever written. Not to speak of that uncouth abstrac- 
tion. Existence, which is here turned into a person, and deckt 
out with eyes ; what distinguishes Shakspeare above all other 
poets, is, that he did not " spurn Existence's bounded reign." 
He was too wise to dream that it was bounded, too wise to 
fancy that he could overleap its bounds, too wise to be ambi- 
tious of taking a salto mortale into Chaos. His excellence is 
that he never " spurns " anything. More than any other writer, 
he realizes his own conception of the philosophic life, — 

Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, 
Sermons in stones, and good in everything. 

People are fond of talking about the extravagances of ge- 
nius, the exaggerations of the imagination ; and when they 
meet with something very extravagant and exaggerated, they 
regard this as a proof that the writer's imagination was so vio- 
lent and uncontrollable, it quite ran away with him. One 
might as well deem gouty legs symptomatic of strength and 
agility. Exaggerations mostly arise from feebleness and tor- 
pour of imagination. It is because we feel ourselves unable to 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



343 



vivify an object in its full, calm reality, that we mouthe and 
sputter. When Caligula was making preparations for a tri- 
umph over an enemy he had never seen, Galliarum proce- 
rissimum quemque, et, ut ipse dicehat, a^LoOpidji^evTov legit, ac 
seposuit ad pompam (Suetonius, c. 47) : and so it is with big 
words that authors have been wont to celebrate their factitious 
triumphs. Of the writers I have been citing none was remark- 
able for imaginative power : even Dryden was not so : in John- 
son the active, productive imagination was inert, the passive 
or receptive, sluggish and obtuse. His strength lay in his un- 
derstanding, which was shrewd and vigorous, and at times 
sagacious. Yet no poet of the rankest, most ill-regulated 
imagination ever wrote anything more tumid than this coup- 
let on Shakspeare. 

To shew how a poet of true and mighty imagination will 
praise, let me wind up these remarks by quoting Milton's noble 
epitaph. 

What needs my Shakspeare for his honoured bones 

The labour of an age in piled stones ? 

Or that his hallowed relics should be hid 

Under a star-ypointed pyramid ? 

Dear son of memory, great heir of fame, 

What needst thou such weak witness of thy name ? 

Thou in our wonder and astonishment 

Hast built thyself a live-long monument; 

And so sepulcred in such pomp dost lie. 

That kings for such a tomb would wish to die. 

The reader may perhaps remind me, that this epitaph, as 
written by Milton, contained six more lines ; and that these are 
quite unworthy of the others, and prove that the greatest poets 
may at times write in very bad taste. True ! the epitaph was 
composed in Milton's youth ; and a young poet of genius is al- 
ways liable, — the more so on account of that lively suscepti- 
bility which is among the chief elements of all genius, — to be 
carried away by the vicious taste of his age. He must receive 
the impressions of the world around him, before he can mould 
them into a world of his own. In omitting the six lines in 
question, I have followed the example set by Wordsworth in 
his Essay on Epitaphs. Bad however as the conceit in them 



344 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



may be, the fault is not one of vapid bombast, but of an unripe 
genius, of an over-active ingenuity. The words are not big, 
unmeaning sounds, as in the lines quoted from Dryden, Pope, 
and Johnson. Milton's epitaph, though it has a flaw in it, is a 
genuine diamond, and, when that flaw is cut out, shines in last- 
ing brilliancy : while the others are bits of painted glass, gaudy 
and glaring, but which, if you handle them rudely, split into 
worthless fragments. Or rather they are swollen bladders : 
only prick them, and they collapse, and cannot be puft out 
again. u. 

When searching into the hidden things of God, we are for 
ever forgetting that we only hiow in part. a. 

Christianity has carried civilization along with it, whither- 
soever it has gone : and, as if to shew that the latter does not 
depend on physical causes, some of the countries the most civil- 
ized in the days of Augustus are now in a state of hopeless 
barbarism. ' 



Something like Judaism or Platonism, I should think, mu 
always precede Christianity ; except in those who have reall 
received Christianity as a living power in their childhood. 

The catholic religion is the whole Bible: sects pick out 
part of it. But what whole ? The living whole, to be sure 
not the dead whole : the spirit, not the letter. a. 

Mere art perverts taste ; just as mere theology depraves re 
ligion. 

It is a lesson which Genius too, and Wisdom of every kin 
must learn, that its kingdom is not of this world. It must learn 
to know this, and to be content that this should be so, to be con- 
tent with the thought of a kingdom in a higher, less transitory 
region. Then peradventure may the saying be fulfilled with 
regard to it, that he who is ready to lose his life shall save 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



345 



it. The wisdom which aims at something nobler and more last- 
ing than the kingdom of this world, may now and then find that 
the kingdom of this world will also fall into its lap. How much 
longer and more widely has Aristotle reigned than Alexander ! 
with how much more power and glory Luther than Charles the 
Fifth ! His breath still works miracles at this day. u. 



Unless a tree has borne blossoms in spring, you will vainly 
look for fruit on it in autumn. u. 



In character, in affection, the ideal is the only real. 



There is but one power to which all are eager to bow down, 
to which all take pride in paying homage ; and that is the power 
of Beauty. u. 

Science sees signs ; Poetry the thing signified. . u. 



If Painting be Poetry's sister, she can only be a sister Anne, 
who will see nothing but a flock of sheep, while the other bodies 
forth a troop of horsemen with drawn sabres and white-plumed 
helmets. I. 



A work of genius is something like the pie in the nursery 
song, in which the four and twenty blackbirds are baked. When 
the pie is opened, the birds begin to sing. Hereupon three 
fourths of the company run away i;i a fright ; and then after a 
time, feeling ashamed, they would fain excuse themselves by 
declaring, the pie stank so, they could not sit near it. Those 
who stay behind, the men of taste and epicures, say one to an- 
other. We came here to eat. What business have birds, after they 
have been baked, to be alive and singing ? This will never do. 
We must put a stop to so dangerous an innovation : for who will 
send a pie to an oven, if the birds come to life there ? We must 
stand up to defend the rights of all the ovens in England. Let 
us have dead birds . . dead birds for our money. So each sticks 
his fork into a bird, and hacks and mangles it a while, and then 
15* 



346 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



holds it up and cries, Who will dare assert that there is any 
music in this bird's song ? 

Let your humour always be good humour, in both senses. If 
it comes of a bad humour, it is pretty sure not to belie its 
parentage. u. 

Shakspeare's genius could adapt itself with such nicety to all 
the varieties of ever-varying man, that in his Titus Andronicus 
he has portrayed the very dress of mind which the people of 
the declining empire must have worn. I can conceive that the 
degenerate Romans would clothe their thoughts in just such 
words. The sayings of the free-garmented folks in Julius 
Cesar could not have come from the close-buttoned generation 
in Othello. Though human passions are the same in all ages, 
there are modifications of them dependent on the circumstances 
of time and place, which Shakspeare has always caught and 
exprest. He has thus given such a national tinge and epochal 
propriety to his characters, that, even when one sees Jaques in 
a bag-wig and sword, one may exclaim, on being told that he is 
a French nobleman. This man must have lived at the time when 
the Italian taste was prevalent in France. How differently 
does he moralize from King Henry or Hamlet ! although their 
morality, like all morality, comes to pretty nearly the same 
conclusion. I. 



He who is imprest with the truth of the foregoing remark, 
must needs feel somewhat perplext, when reading Troilus and 
Cressida, at the language which is there put into the mouths of 
the Greek chiefs : so utterly unlike is it to the winged words of 
the Iliad. Hence some of the critics have had recourse to the 
usual makeshift, by which they try to shirk difficulties, when 
they cannot get over them, and have conjectured that the play 
was interpolated by some other poet of the age. But what 
other poet could have furnisht the wisdom contained in those 
very speeches the style of which appears the most objectiona- 
ble ? And what would the play be without them ? Indeed 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



347 



the language in question is not confined to a few speeches, but 
runs through almost all the graver scenes. Still it is strange 
that Sliakspeare, who, with a humble and magnanimous trust 
in truth, represented everything just as it was or had been, 
merely bringing out the spirit which in real life had been checkt 
or latent, should in this instance have departed so far from his 
original, that he is scarcely ever so unlike Homer, as here 
where he comes in contact with him. To describe the style of 
the Greek debates by one of his own illustrations : 

Knots, by the conflux of meeting sap, 
Infect the sound pine, and divert his grain 
Tortive and errrant from his course of growth. 

It looks just as if Shakspeare had chosen for once to let his 
thoughts travel by his friend Chapman's heavy wagon : such is 
the similarity between the language of the Greek scenes and 
that of Bussy d'Ambois and Chapman's other serious writings. 
And doubtless this furnishes the key to the difficulty. Shak- 
speare's acquaintance with Homer was through Chapman's 
translation ; a considerable part of which was publisht some 
years before Troilus and Cressida. Hence Agamemnon and 
Ulysses talk with him just as Chapman had made them talk, 
and just as Shakspeare would naturally suppose that they had 
talkt in Greek. 

Perhaps this may help us toward the solution of another 
difficulty in this perplexing play. Coleridge, who confesses 
that he scarcely knows what to say of it, and that " there is no 
one of Shakspeare's plays harder to characterize," has seldom 
been less happy in his criticisms than in his remarks on the 
Greek chiefs. Nor is Hazlitt less wide of the mark, when he 
observes that " Shakspeare seems to have known them as well 
as if he had been a spy sent into their camp." At least his 
representation of them is totally different in tone and spirit 
from Homer's ; as indeed must needs follow from the difference 
in their language : for Shakspeare was always alive, in a higher 
degree than any other poet, to the truth of the maxim, le style 
est Vhomme meme. Yet I cannot think that the difference has 
been correctly apprehended by Coleridge, when he says that 



348 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



" Shakspeare's main object was to substantiate the distinct and 
graceful profiles or outlines of the Homeric Epic, into the flesh 
and blood of the romantic drama." Assuredly the Homeric 
heroes are not mere graceful outlines : they are every whit as 
substantial, living flesh and blood as Shakspeare's : only their 
moral nature is simpler, and flows more uniformly and contin- 
uously, without such a whirl and eddy of thoughts and feelings. 
Tieck, who in a note to his edition of the German Shakspeare, 
also observes that among all the plays Troilus and Cressida is 
unquestionably the most singular, calls it, " a heroic comedy, a 
tragic parody, written with the set purpose of parodying the 
age of chivalry, the profound political wisdom which overleaps 
itself, the shows of love, and even misfortune." These words 
seem to express the real character of the play. But still the 
question recurs : how came Shakspeare thus to parody the 
Homeric heroes ? how came he to conceive and represent them 
with all this ostentation and hollowness, ever trying to cheat 
and outwit each other, yet only successful in cheating and 
outwitting themselves ? Now this, it seems to me, may not 
improbably be owing in a great measure to the medium through 
which he saw them, and by which they were so much swelled 
out and distorted, that his exquisite taste might well take offense 
at such pompous phraseology in the mouth of simple warriors : 
while the combination of great political sagacity, and shrewd- 
ness and depth, more especially in general reflexions, with 
hollowness of heart, and weakness of purpose, was what he saw 
frequently exemplified among the statesmen of his own age. 
Though Agamemnon and his peers were certainly not meant as 
a satire on James and his court, yet they have sundry features 
in common. u. 



A poet, to be popular, ought not to be too purely and in- 
tensely poetical. He should have plenty of ordinary poetry 
for the multitude of ordinary readers : and perhaps it may be 
well that he should have some poetry better than ordinary, lest 
the multitude should be daunted by finding themselves entirely 
at variance with the intelligent few. This however is by no 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



349 



means clear. He who calls to mind the popularity of the Pleas- 
ures of Hope, may remark that the artificial flowers in a milli- 
ner's window do not want any natural ones to set them off ; and 
that a star looks very pale and dull, when squibs and rockets 
are shining it out of countenance. In truth this has just been 
the case with Gertrude of Wyoming, which has been quite 
thrown into the shade by its gaudier, flimsier neighbour. 

I have known several persons, to whom no poem of Words- 
worth's gave so much pleasure as the Lines ivritten ivhile sail- 
ing in a boat at evening ; which were composed, as he has told 
me, on the Cam, while he was at College. 0, if he had hut 
gone on writing in that style ! many will say, what a charming 
poet he would have been 1 For these are among the very few 
verses of Wordsworth's, which any other person might have 
written ; that is, bating the purity and delicacy of the language, 
and the sweetness of the versification. The sentiment and the 
exercise of fancy are just raised so much above the tempera- 
ture of common life, as to produce a pleasant glow : and there 
is nothing calling for any stretch of imagination or of thought ; 
nothing like what we so often find in his poems, when out of 
Nature's heart a voice " appears to issue, startling The blank 
airT 

In like manner I have been told that, among Landor's Con- 
versations, the most general favorite is that between General 
Kleber and some French officers. If it be so, one may easily 
see why. Beautiful as some touches in it are, it is not so far 
removed as most of its companions, from what other men have 
written and can write. 

No doubt there is also another reason, — that this Conversa- 
tion has something of a story connected with it. For in mere 
incidents all take an interest, through the universal fellowfeel- 
ing which binds man to man ; as is proved by the fondness for 
gossiping, from which so few are exempt. Above all is such 
an interest excited by everything connected, however remotely, 
with the two great powers which come across the path of life, 
— death, which terminates it, — and love, which, to the imagi- 
nation even of the least imaginative, seems to carry it for a 



350 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



while out of the highway dust, into the midst of green fields 
and flowers. Hence it is that all tatlers delight in getting hold 
of anything akin to a love-story ; not merely from a fondness 
for scandal, but because the most powerful and pleasurable of 
human feelings is in some measure awakened and excited 
thereby. 

Nor is it at all requisite to the excitement of interest by inci- 
dents, that the persons they befall should have any depth of 
character or passion. On the contrary, such a surplusage often 
makes them less generally interesting. Leave out the thoughts 
and the characters in Hamlet, Lear, and Macbeth : as panto- 
mimic melodrames they might perchance run against Pizarro 
and the Forest of Bondy. Hence the popularity of novels ; the 
name of which implies some novel incident ; and the interest of 
which mostly arises from the entangling and disentangling of 
a love-story. Indeed this is all that the bulk of novel-readers 
care about ; who loves whom ? and by what difficulties their 
loves are crost ? and how those difficulties are surmounted ? 
and how the loveknot, after the tying and untying of sundry 
other knots, twists about at length into a marriageknot ? 

This too is perhaps one of the reasons why the heroes and 
heroines of novels have so little character. They are to be 
just such persons as the readers can wish and believe themselves 
to be, trickt out with all manner of insipid virtues, unencum- 
bered by anything distinctive and individual. Then we may 
float along in a daydream, with a half-conscious persuasion that 
all the occurrences related are happening to ourselves. Here- 
by Poetry, instead of lifting us out of ourselves into an ideal 
world, brings down its world to us, and peoples the real world 
with phantoms. These delusions would be disperst by any 
powerful delineation of individual character. We cannot fancy 
ourselves Lear, or Macbeth, or Hamlet ; although on deeper 
reflexion we perceive that we are heirs of a common nature. 

In this sense it is very true, that, as one of our greatest 
modern writers once said, incident and interest are the bane of 
poetry. For the main subject matter of poetry being man, — 
the various modifications and combinations of human character 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



351 



and feelings, — the facts it treats of will be primarily actions, or 
what men do, exhibiting and fulfilling the inward impulses of 
their nature, — and secondarily events, which follow one another 
according to an apparent law, and which shew how the outward 
world runs parallel or counter to the characters, calling forth 
their dormant energies, unfolding them, shaping them, perfect- 
ing them. Whereas incidents are mere creatures of chance, 
unconnected, insulated, and interesting solely from themselves, 
from their strangeness, not from their moral influence. Such 
an interest being excited with far more ease, both by the writer 
and in the reader, the love of incidents has commonly been 
among the symptoms of a declining age in poetry ; as for in- 
stance in Euripides, compared with Eschylus and Sophocles, in 
Fletcher compared with Shakspeare. 

And this is the interest which is injurious to poetry, the 
interest excited by strange incidents, and by keeping curiosity 
on the stretch. Not that good poetry is to be uninteresting : 
but the sources of its interest lie deeper in our inmost con- 
sciousness and primary sympathies. Hence it is permanent. 
While the interest awakened by curiosity fades away when the 
curiosity has once been gratified, true poetical interest, the 
interest excited by the throes and conflicts of human passion, is 
wont to increase as we become familiar with its object. Every 
time I read King Edipus, the interest seems to become more 
intense : the knowledge of the result does not prevent my sym- 
pathizing anew with the terrific struggle. So it is in Othello. 
Whereas that excited by the Castle of Otranto, or the Mysteries 
of Udolpho, is nearly extinct after the first reading. In truth 
a mystery is unworthy of the name, unless it becomes more 
mysterious when we have been initiated into it, than it was 
before. ' u. 



Man cannot live without a shadow, even in poetry. Poetical 
dreamers forget this. They try to represent perfect characters, 
characters which shall be quite transparent : and so their heroes 
have no flesh and blood, no nerves or muscles, nothing to touch 
our sympathy, nothing for our affections to cling to. u. 



352 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



People stare much more at a paper kite, than at a real one. 

Brilliant speakers and writei^ should remember that coach- 
wheels are better than Catherine wheels to travel on. 



Many are ambitious of saying grand things, that is, of being 
grandiloquent. Eloquence is speaking out . . a quality few 
esteem, and fewer aim at. 

One's first business in writing is to say what one has to say. 

Is it ? Dear me ! I never knew that. Yet I have written 
ever so many articles in the Hypo-critical Review, laying down 
the law how everybody ought to write, and scolding everybody 
for not writing accordingly. Surely too my articles must have 
been admirable ; for somebody told me he admired them. u. 

The best training for style is speech ; not monologues, or lec- 
tures ex cathedra, like those of the German professors, of whose 
uninterrupted didacticity their literature bears too many marks ; 
but conversation, whence the French, and women generally, de- 
rive the graces of their style ; dialectic discussion, by which 
Plato braced and polisht his ; and the agonistic oratory of the 
bar, the senate, and the forum, which makes people speak home, 
popularly, and to the point, as we see in our own best writers, 
as well as in those of Greece and Rome. For when such a 
practice is national, its influence extends to those who do not 
come into immediate contact with it. The pulpit too would be a 
like discipline, if they who mount it would oftener think as much 
of the persons they are preaching to, as of the preacher, u. 

An epithet is an addition : but an addition may be an incum- 
brance ; as even a dog finds out, when a kettle is tied to his 
tail. Stuff a man into a featherbed ; and he will not move so 
lightly and nimbly. The very instruments of flying weigh us 
down, if not rightly adjusted, if out of place, or overthick. Yet 
many writers cram their thoughts into what might not inappro- 
priately be called a featherbed of words. They accumulate 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



353 



epithets, which weaken oftener than they strengthen ; throwing 
a haze over the objects, instead of bringing out their features 
more distinctly. For authors too, like all the rest of mankind, 
take their seats among Hesiod's vr]Tnoi, ovde ta-aaiv oaco nXeov 

rjfxiav navTos. 

As a general maxim, no epithet should be used, which does 
not express something not exprest in the context, nor so implied 
in it as to be immediately deducible. Above all, shun abusive 
epithets. Leave it to those who can wield nothing more pow- 
erful, to throw offensive words. Before the fire ljurns strongly, 
it smoulders and smokes : when mightiest and most consuming, 
it is also brightest and clearest. A modern historian of the 
Cesars would hardly bridle his tongue for five lines together. 
In every page we should be called upon to abhor the perfidious 
Tiberius, the ferocious Caligula, the bloodi/ Nero, the cruel 
Domitian, the tyrant, the monster^ the fiend. Tacitus, although 
not feeble in indignation, either in feeling or expressing it, knew 
that no gentleman ever pelts eggshells, even at those who are 
set up in the pillory : nor would he have done so at him who 
was pilloried in St Helena. 

If the narrative warrant a sentence of reprobation, the reader 
will not be slow in pronouncing it : by taking it out of his mouth 
you affront him. A great master and critic in style observes, 
that " Thucydides and Demosthenes lay it down as a rule, 
never to say what they have reason to suppose would occur to 
the auditor and reader, in consequence of anything said before ; 
knowing that every one is more pleased, and more easily led by 
us, when we bring forward his thoughts indirectly and imper- 
ceptibly, than when we elbow them and outstrip them with our 
own." {Imagin, Convers. i. 129.) Perhaps, as is often the 
case in criticism, a practice resulting from an instinctive sense 
of beauty and fitness may here be spoken of as a rule, the sub- 
ject of a conscious purpose : and when it becomes such, and is 
made a matter of elaborate study, the practice itself is apt to 
be carried too far, and to produce a zigzag style, instead of a 
smooth, winding flow. For the old saying, that ars est celare 
artem, is not only applicable to works, but in a still more im- 

w 



354 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



portant sense to authors ; whose nature will never be bettered 
by any art, until that art becomes nature. Still, so far as such 
a rule tended to make our language more temperate, it could 
hardly be otherwise than beneficial. This temperance too, like 
all temperance, would greatly foster strength. For we are ever 
disposed to sympathize with those who repress their passions : 
we even spur them on ; while we pull in those who are run 
away with by theirs : and something like pity rises up toward 
the veriest criminal, when we see him meet with hard words, as 
well as hanging. 

There is a difference however, as to the use of epithets, be- 
tween poetry and prose. The former is allowed to dwell longer 
on that which is circumstantial and accessory. Ornaments may 
become a ball-dress, which would be unseasonable of a mornincr. 
The w^alk of Prose is a walk of business, along a road, with an 
end to reach, and without leisure to do more than take a glance 
at the prospect : Poetry's on the other hand is a walk of pleas- 
ure, among fields and groves, W'here she may often loiter and 
gaze her fill, and even stoop now and then to cull a flower. 
Yet ornamental epithets are not essential to poetry : should you 
fancy they are, read Sophocles, and read Dante. Or if you 
would see how the purest and noblest poetry may be painted 
and rouged out of its grandeur by them, compare Pope's trans- 
lations of Homer with the original, or Tate and Brady's of the 
Psalms with the prose version. u. 

It has been urged in behalf of the octosyllabic metre, of 
which modern writers are so fond, that much of our heroic 
verse would be improved, if you were to leave out a couple of 
syllables in each line. Such an argument may not betoken 
much logical precision ; seeing that idle words may find a way 
into lines of eight syllables, as well as into those of ten : nor is 
there any peculiar pliancy in the former, which should render 
them the one regimental dimension, exclusively fitted to express 
all manner of thoughts. Moreover such omissions must alter 
the character of a poem, the two metres being in totally differ- 
ent keys ; wherefore a change in the metre of the poem should 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



355 



superinduce a proportionate change in its whole structure and 
composition. Sony too must be the verses, which could benefit 
by such an amputation. In Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, 
Milton, it would be like improving a hand by chopping off a 
finger. If you try the experiment on Pope however, especially 
on his translation, you will find that line after line is the better 
for being thus curtailed. For you will get rid of many of the 
epithets, with which he was wont to eke out his couplets ; and 
which, as he seldom exerted his imagination to reproduce the 
conceptions presented by his original, were mostly selected for 
little else than their sound, and their convenience in filling up 
the vacant space. 

There is indeed a tendency in our heroic couplet, as it is very 
unaptly called, to collect idle words ; that is to say, according to 
the mode of constructing it which has prevailed since the mid- 
dle of the seventeenth century. Gibbon, in some observations 
on Ovid's Fasti, remarks that, in the elegiac metre, the neces- 
sity that "the sense must always be included in a couplet, 
causes the introduction of many useless words merely for the 
sake of the measure.'* The same has naturally been the case 
in our verse, ever since it was laid down as a rule that there 
must be a pause at the end of every other line. u. 

Coleridge, in his Biographia Liter aria (i. 20), suggests that 
our vicious poetic diction " has been kept up by, if it did not 
wholly arise from, the custom of writing Latin verses, and the 
great importance attacht to these exercises, in our public 
schools." In this remark, too much efficacy is ascribed to what 
at the utmost can only have been a subordinate and secondary 
cause. For the very same vices of style have prevailed in 
other countries, where there was no such practice to generate 
and foster them. Nor in England have they been confined to 
persons educated at our public schools, but have been general 
among those who have set themselves to write poetry, whether 
for the sake of distinction, or to while away idle hours, or to 
gratify a literary taste, without any strong natural bent. In- 
deed the one great source of what is vicious in literature is the 



356 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



want of truth, under all its forms : while the main source of 
what is excellent, in style as well as in matter, is the pure love 
and desire of truth, M'hether as the object of the reason and 
understanding, or of the imagination. He who writes with any 
other aim than that of giving full utterance to the truth which 
is teeming within him, — be it with the wish of writing finely, 
of gaining fame, or of gaining money, — is sure to write ill. 
He who is ambitious of becoming a poet, when Nature never 
meant him to be so, is sure to deck himself out with counterfeit 
ornaments. 

Hence it is that translations are often injurious to literature. 
They may indeed be highly beneficial, by promoting that com- 
merce of thought, which is the great end of the intercourse 
among nations, and of which the lower mercantile commerce 
should be the symbol and the instrument. Very often however 
a translator goes through his work as a job : and even when he 
has entered upon it spontaneously, he will mostly grow weary 
after a while, and continue it merely as taskwork. Whether 
from natural inaptitude, or from exhausted interest, he makes 
no steady, strenuous endeavor to realize the conceptions of his 
author, and to bring them out vividly and distinctly, even before 
his own mind. But he has put on harness, and must go on. 
So he writes vaguely and hazily, tries to make up for the fee- 
bleness and incorrectness of his outlines, by daubing the picture 
over with gaudy colours ; and getting no distinct perception of 
his author's meaning, nor having any distinct meaning of his 
own, he falls into a noxious habit of using words without mean- 
ing. 

For the same reason will the practice of writing in a forein 
language be mischievous, and to the same extent ; so far name- 
ly as it leads us to use Avords without a distinct, living meaning, 
and to have some other object jDaramount to that of saying what 
we have to say, in the plainest, most forcible manner. An 
author may indeed exercise himself not without profit in writing 
Latin ; and as people learn to walk with more grace and ease 
by learning to dance, he may return to his own language with 
his perceptions of beauty and fitness in style sharpened by the 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



necessity of attending to the niceties of a forein tongue, in which 
all composition must needs be the work of art. Our principal 
Latin poets have been among the best and most elegant English 
writers of their time, — Cowley, Addison, Sir William Jones, 
Cowper, Landor : and though Milton was over-ambitious of 
emulating powers and beauties scarcely compatible with the 
genius of our language, his scholarship led him to that learned 
mastery over it, in which he stands almost alone. 

But when Latin verses are to be written as a prescribed 
task, — when, according to the custom of many schools, boys 
are prepared for this accomplishment by being set in the first 
instance to write what are professedly nonsense verses, as though 
stringing long and short syllables together after a certain fashion 
had a positive value, independent of the subject matter, — when 
they are trained for years to write compulsorily on a theme im- 
posed by a master, — it is not easy to imagine any method bet- 
ter calculated to deaden every spark of genuine poetical feeling. 
In its stead boys of quickness acquire a fondness for mere dic- 
tion : this is the object aimed at, the prize set before them. 
They ransack Virgil and Horace and Ovid for pretty expres- 
sions, and bind up as many as they can in a posy : so that a 
copy of some fifty lines will often be a cento of such phrases, 
and contain a greater number of ornamental epithets than a 
couple of books of the Eneid. 

To exemplify this poetical ferrumination, as he calls it, Cole- 
ridge cites a line from a prize-poem, — Lactea purpureos inter- 
strepit imda lapillos, — which, he says, is taken from a line of 
Politian's, — Pura coloratos interstrepit unda lapillos ; adding 
that, if you look out purus in the Gradus, you find lacteus as 
its first synonym ; and purpureus is the first synonym for colo- 
ratus. They who know how little Coleridge is to be relied on 
for a mere matter of fact, will not be surprised to learn, that 
lacteus does not occur among the synonyms for purus in the 
Gradus, as indeed it scarcely could, nov purpureus among those 
for coloratus. It is worth noticing however, as illustrating the 
effects of such a process, that the two epithets substituted for 
the original ones are both untrue. The original line is a very 



358 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



pretty one, even in rhythm superior to the copy : but the water, 
though pura, is not lactea ; nor, if it were, could the pebbles be 
seen through it : and these pebbles are colorati, of various col- 
ours, not, or at least only a few of them, purpurei. u. 

Most people seem to think the coat makes the gentleman ; 
almost all fancy the diction makes the poet. This is one of the 
reasons why Paradise Regained has been so generally slighted. 
In like manner many readers are unable to discover that there 
is any poetry in Samson Agonistes ; and very few have any 
notion that there is more, and of a higher kind, than in Comus. 
Johnson for instance, while he says, that " a work more truly 
poetical (than Comus) is rarely found ; allusions, images, and 
descriptive epithets embellish almost every period with lavish 
decoration," — as though these things were the essence of po- 
etry, — complains in the Rambler (No. 140), that it is difficult 
to display the excellences of Samson, owing to its " having none 
of those descriptions, similies, or splendid sentences, with which 
other tragedies are so lavishly adorned." So that Johnson's 
taste was of that savage cast, which thinks that a woman's 
beauty consists in her being studded with jewels, if confluent, 
so much the better ; that she can have no beauty at all, unless 
she has a necklace and frontlet and ear-rings ; and that, if she 
had a nose-ring, and lip-rings, and cheek-rings, and chin-rings, 
she would be all the more beautiful. Even allowing that jew- 
elry may not be always hurtful to female beauty, especially 
where there is little or none for it to hurt, yet there is a mas- 
culine beauty, as well as a feminine ; and the former at least 
does not need to be trickt out with tinsel. The oak has a 
beauty of its own, a beauty which would not be improved by 
being spangled over with blossoms. "We may remark too that it 
is only about the horizon that the sky arrays itself in the gor- 
geous pageantry of sunset. The upper heavens remain pure, or 
at most are tinged with a shght blush. 

The whole of Johnson's elaborate criticism on Samson Ago- 
nistes is a specimen of his manner of taking up a flower with 
the tongs, and then protesting that he cannot feel any softness 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



359 



in it, — of his giving it a stroke with his sledgehammer, and 
then crying, Look ! where is its beauty ? " This is the tragedy 
(he has the audacity to say), which ignorance has admired, and 
bigotry applauded." u. 

Perhaps it is when the Imagination flies the lowest, that we 
see the hues of her plumage. In Coleridge's Tahletalk (i. IGO), 
it is stated that, having remarkt how the Pilgrim's Progress " is 
composed in the lowest style of English," he added : " if you 
were to polish it, you would destroy the reality of the vision : 
for works of imagination should be written in very plain lan- 
guage : the more purely imaginative they are, the more neces- 
sary it is to be plain." I know no better illustration of this, 
than the exquisite simplicity of the tales in Tieck's Phantasus ; 
the style of which produces a persuasion of their complete re- 
ality, as though the author were born and bred in fairy-land, 
talking of matters with which he was thoroughly famihar, so 
that the -wonderful events related seem to be actually going on 
before our eyes. This was probably the reason why Cole- 
ridge, as he once said to me, considered Tieck to be the poet of 
the purest imagination, according to his own definition of the 
imagination, who had ever lived. 

That the loftiest aspirations of the feelings find their appro- 
priate utterance in a like plainness of speech, is proved by the 
Psalms : that it is equally fitted to express the deepest myste- 
ries of thought by those who have received the highest initia- 
tion into them, we see in the writings of St John. On the 
other hand fine diction is wont to bring the author into view. 
We perceive the conjuration going on, and the vapours rising ; 
which subside when the form evoked comes forth into distinct 
vision. u. 

The beauty of a pale face is no beauty to the vulgar eye. 

u. 



Too much is seldom enough, 
full prevents its keeping so. 



Pumping after your bucket is 
u. 



/ 



360 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Do, and have done. The former is far the easiest. 



How many faithful sentences are written now ? that is, sen- 
tences dictated by a pure love of truth, without any wish, save 
that of expressing the truth fully and clearly, — sentences in 
which there is neither a spark of light too much, nor a shade of 
darkness. rr 



The great misfortune of the present age is, that one can't 
stand on one's feet, without calling to mind that one is not stand- 
ing on one's head. u. 

The swan on still St Mary's Lake 
Floats double, swan and shadow. 

A similar duplicity is perpetually found in modern poetry ; 
though it is seldom characterized by a stillness Hke that of St 
Mary's Lake. Even in Wordsworth himself we too often see 
the reflexion, along with the object. Look for instance at those 
fine lines on the first aspect of the French Revolution : 

Not favoured spots alone, but the whole earth 
The beauty wore of promise, — that which sets 
(To take an image which was felt no doubt 
Among the bowers of Paradise itself ) 
The budding rose above the rose full-blown. 

When reading these lines, I have always wisht that the third 
and fourth were omitted ; or rather that the whole passage were 
constructed anew. For there is much beauty in the thought. 
There is an imaginative harmony between the budding rose 
and the time when the world was in the bud: although the 
rosebud was not yet invested with that secondary interest which 
it derives from contrast, that interest through which the aged 
feel the beauty of childhood far more deeply than children can : 
and although the beauty of fulfilment, the beauty of the full- 
blown rose, is that which shines the most radiantly in the hope- 
ful eyes of youth. Such as it is however, the thought is not 
duly woven into the context : we seem to be looking at the re- 
verse side of the tapestry, with the rough ends of thread stick- 
ing out. It is brought in reflectively, rather than imaginatively. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



361 



A parenthesis, wliere it interrupts the continuity of a single 
thought, unless there be a coincident interruption of feeling, is 
ill-suited to poetry. You will hardly improve your pearl by 
splitting it in two, and sticking a pebble between the halves. 
The very expression, to take an image, is prosaic. The imagi- 
nation does not take images. It discerns the harmonies of things, 
the more latent as well as the more apparent : the truths which 
it wishes to utter, it sees written in manifold forms by the finger 
of God on the mystic scroll of the universe : and what it sees it 
speaks of, not taking, but receiving, not feigning that which is 
not, but representing that which is. Nor is it quite correct to 
say that an image iv as felt, least of all in Paradise. The inhab- 
itants of Paradise did not feel images, but realities : it is since 
our expulsion from Paradise, that we have been doomed to take 
up our home in a world of shadows. And though the beauty 
of promise may have been felt there, the imagination was not 
yet so enslaved by the understanding, as to depreciate one kind 
of beauty for the sake of exalting another. 

But if Wordsworth at times has this blemish in common with 
his contemporaries, he has excellences peculiarly his own. If 
in his pages we see both swan and shadow, in them at least the 
waters are still ; 

And through her depths St Clary's Lake 

Is visibly delighted; 
For not a feature of the hills 

Is in the mirror slighted. U. 



In the two editions of Wordsworth's poems publisht since the 
former one of this little book, the lines just objected to have 
been altered; and the passage now stands thus: 

Kot favoured spots alone, biit the whole earth, 
The beauty Avore of promise, — that ■which sets 
(As at some moment might not be unfelt 
Among the bowers of Paradise itself ) 
The budding rose above the rose full-blown. 

By this change a part of the foregoing remarks has been 
obviated : still I have not thought it necessary to cancel them. 
16 



3G2 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



For their justice, so far at least, is confirmed by the great poet's 
compliance with them : and of esthetical criticism that portion 
is the most beneficial practically, which discusses details with 
precision. General views of literature, whether theoretical or 
historical, are valuable, as enlarging the mind, and giving it a 
clew to the labyrinth, which since the invention of printing has 
been becoming more and more complicated every year. To 
authors however they have mostly done harm, seducing them to 
write from abstract notions, or after the fashion of bygone ages, 
instead of the promptings of their own genius, and of the liv- 
ing world around them ; as has been exemplified above all by 
numberless abortions in the recent literature of that country 
where such speculations have had the greatest vogue. Minuter 
criticism on the other hand, which was the kind most cultivated 
by the ancients, and which contributed to the exquisite polish 
of their style, has few votaries in England, except Landor, 
whose style bears a like witness to its advantages. Hence, by 
a twofold inversion of the right order, that which ought to be 
ideal and genial, is in modern works often merely technical ; 
while in the objective, technical parts blind caprice disports 
itself. 

Besides it is pleasant to find a great writer showing defer- 
ence to one of low degree ; not bristling up and stiffening, as 
men are apt to do, when any one presumes to hint the possibil- 
ity of their not being infallible ; but listening patiently to objec- 
tions, and ready to allow them their Aveight. Perhaps however 
Wordsworth may at times allow them even more than their due 
weight: and this may have been the origin of many of the 
alterations, which readers familiar with the earlier editions of 
his poems have to regret in the later. Thus for instance it is 
" in deference to the opinion of a friend," that, in the beautiful 
ballad on the Blind Highland Boy, he has substituted the turtle- 
shell for the tub in which the boy actually did float down Loch 
Leven. Yet, though the description of the household tub in 
the original poem was perhaps needlessly minute, and too broad 
a defiance of the conventional decorums of poetry, the change 
seems to introduce an incongruous feature into the story, and to 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



363 



detract from its reality and probability, giving it the air of a 
fiction. It militates against the great original principle of 
Wordsworth's poetry; which was, to shew how the germs of 
poetical feeling and interest are not confined to certain privi- 
le""ed classes and conditions of society, but are spread through 
every region of life ; and that, where the feeling is genuine and 
strong, it will invest what might otherwise be deemed mean 
with a moral dignity and beauty. Were the incident an in- 
vention, there might be some plea for deriding the poet, whose 
imagination dwelt among such homely utensils: but the fact 
having been such as it was, the alteration is too much after the 
fashion of those with which the French translators of Shak- 
speare have thought it became them to ennoble their original ; 
too much as if one were to change Desdemona's handkerchief 
into a shawl. A jester would recommend that Peter Bell's 
ass should in like manner be metamorphosed into a camel. 
Yet surely the vessel in which Diogenes lived, and Regulus 
died, and on which Wesley preacht, might be mentioned, even 
In this treble-refined age, without exciting a hysterical nausea, 
or setting people's ears on edge. Else the poet, who has not 
been wont to shew much fear of his critics, might be content to 
throw it out as a tub for the whale. 

Even in such matters the beginning of change is as when 
one lettetli out water : none knows where it will stop. The 
description of the turtle-shell, which at first was in the same 
tone with the rest of the poem, was not held to be sufficiently 
ornate. Coleridge objected to it (Biog. Lit. ii. 136) ; very un- 
reasonably, as it seems to me, considering that the ballad is 
professedly a fireside tale told to children, and that this its char- 
acter was studiously preserved throughout. Indeed exquisite 
skill was shewn in the manner in which the story was carried 
into the higher regions of poetry, yet without ever deviating 
from the most childlike simplicity and familiarity of expression. 
Coleridge's objections however led the author to bring in five 
new lines, more after the manner of ordinary poetical diction ; 
but which are out of keeping wdth the rest of the poem, and 
would be unintelligible to its supposed audieiice. When the 



304 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



turtle-shell was first introduced, they were told that sundry cu- 
riosities had been brought by mariners to the coast : 

And one, the rarest was a shell, 
AVhich he, poor child, had studied well-, 
The shell of a green turtle, thin 
And hollow : you might sit therein 
It was so wide and deep. 

'T was e'en the largest of its kind. 
Large, thin, and light as birch-tree rind ; 
So light a shell, that it would swim, 
And gaily lift its fearless rim 
Above the tossing waves. 

These lines set the shell before the children's eyes, place 
them in it, and give life and spirit to the story. But now their 
childly brains are bewildered, by hearing that, among the rar- 
ities from far countries. 

The rarest was a turtle-shell ; 
Which he, poor child, had studied well, 
A shell of ample size, and Ufjlit 
As the pearly car of Amphitrite, 
Thai sportive dolphins draw. 

And, as a coracle that braces 
On Vaga's breast the fretful wave?, 
This shell upon the deep would swim, 
And gaily lift its fearless brim 
Above the tossing surge. 

Alas ! we too often find those who have to teach children, 
explaining ignotum per ignotius ; and at times one is much 
puzzled to do otherwise. But is this a thing desirable in itself? 
and can it be a judicious improvement, to give up a clear, sim- 
ple, lively description, for the sake of a few fine words, which 
leave the hearers in a mist ? u. 



In the former volume I made some remarks on the inexpedi- 
ency of substituting any other word for the first that comes into 
our head. The main reason for this is, that the word which 
comes first is likely to be the simplest, most natural expression 
of the thought. Where, from artificial habits of mind, this is 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



3C5 



not so, a less plain word may be made to give place to a plainer 
one with advantage. But there is a further consideration. 
The first word will often be connected with its neighbours by- 
certain dim associations, by which, though they may never have 
been brought into distinct consciousness, it was in fact suggested 
in the second-sighted travail of writing. These associations are 
afterward lost thought of In reading over the passage, it 
strikes us that some other word would look better in the place, 
be more forcible, more precise, more elegant, more harmonious. 
Now there is always something tempting in a change, as in 
every exercise of power and will : it flatters us to display any 
kind of superiority, even over our own former selves : we are 
Had to believe that we are more intelli^rent than we were : 
and through the influence of these motives we readily assume 
that the change is an improvement, without considering whether 
the new Avord is really better, not merely in itself, but also 
relatively to the context. They who are nice in the use of 
words, and who take pains in correcting their writings, must 
often have found afterward that many of their corrections were 
for the worse ; and I think it must have surprised them to 
observe how much further and more clearly they saw during 
the fervour of composition, than afterward when they were look- 
ing over what they had written, and examining it critically and 
reflectively. Hence Wordsworth in his last editions has often 
restored the old readings, in passages which in some of the 
intervening ones he had been induced to alter. For instance," 
the beautiful little poem on the Nightingale and the Stock- 
dove began originally, 

nightingale ! thou surely art 
A creature of i^Jiry heart. 

This expression, as one might have expected, offended the 
prosaic mind of the Edinburgh Reviewer ; and though the poet 
was not wont to hold Scotch criticism in much honour, he com- 
plied with it so far as to alter the second line, in the edition of 
1815, into A creature of ebullient heart. The new epithet how- 
ever, though not without beauty, does not introduce the follow- 
ing lines so appropriately, or bring out the contrast with the 



36G 



GUESSES AT TEUTH. 



stockdove's song so strongly, as its predecessor ; which accord- 
ingly in the recent editions has resumed its place. 

That an author, when revising his works some years alter, 
will be much more liable to such forgetfulness of the thoughts and 
feelings which prompted the original composition, is plain ; above 
all, if he be a poet, whose works must needs have a number of 
unseen threads running through them, and holding them together. 
" In truly great poets (as Coleridge tells us he was taught by 
his schoolmaster), there is a reason, not only for every wordj 
but for the position of every word." Not that the poet is dis- 
tinctly conscious of all these reasons : still less has he elab- 
orately calculated and weighed them. But when he has ac- 
quired that genial mastery of language, which is one of the 
poet's most important attributes, his thoughts clothe themselves 
spontaneously in the fittest words. So too, when the mind is 
fully possest with the idea of a work, it will carry out that idea 
in all its details, preserving a unity of tone and character 
throughout. In such a state it is scarcely less impossible for a 
true poet to say anything at variance with that idea, than it 
would be for an. elm to bear apples, or for a rosebush to bring 
forth tulips. Whereas, when we look at the lines just cited, it 
seems clear that the author must have quite forgotten the 
scheme of his poem, and his purpose of telling it in a language 
adapted to the understandings of children ; or he could hardly 
have compared his turtle-shell to "the pearly car of Am- 
phitrite," and " the coracle on Vaga's breast." 

Besides a poet's opinions both with regard to style and to 
things, his views as to the principles and forms and purposes of 
poetry and of life, will naturally undergo material changes in 
the course of years ; the more so the more genial and progre>- 
sive his mind is. Hence, in looking back on a work of former 
days, he will often find much that will not be in unison with his 
present notions, much that he would not say, at least just in the 
same manner, now. The truth is, the whole poem would be 
differently constructed, were he to write it now. And this, if it 
appear worth the while, is the best plan to adopt, — to rewrite 
the whole. Thus Shakspeare, if the first King John and Lear 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



367 



are youthful works of liis, as there is strong reason for believing, 
rewrote them throughout in the maturity of his life, when, being 
possest with new ideas of the two works, he gave them a new 
and higher and mightier unity. Whereas a partial change will 
merely introduce that disharmony and jarring into the poem, 
which the author finds in his own mind. How would Comus 
have been frostbitten, had Milton set himself to correct it in his 
old age after the type of Samson Agonistes ! The inferiority 
of the Gerusalemnie Conquistata to the Liherata may indeed be 
attributable in great measure to the disease that was preying 
on Tasso's mind. But Schiller too, and even Goethe, when cor- 
recting their youthful works, have done little but enfeeble them. 
In learning and science subsequent researches may expand or 
rectify our views : but where a work has an ideal, imaginative 
unity, that unity must not be infringed : and the very fact of an 
author's finding a repugnance between his present self and the 
offspring of his former self, proves that the idea of the latter 
has past away from him, and that he is no longer in a fit state 
to meddle with it. Even supposing, what must always be 
questionable, that the changes in his own mind are all for the 
better, the old maxim, Denique sit quod vis, simplex duntaxat 
et umim, which even in morals is of such deep import, in 
esthetics is almost absolute. 

Of incongruities introduced into a work by a departure from 
its original idea, there is an instance in Wordsworth's poem on 
a party of Gypsies, — a poem containing several majestic lines, 
but in which from the first the tone, as Coleridge observed, 
was elevated out of all proportion to the subject. Nor has this 
disproportionateness been lessened, but rather rendered more 
prominent, by the alteration it has undergone. The objections 
made in several quarters to the feeling exprest in this poem led 
the author to add four lines to it, protesting that he did not 
mean to speak in scorn of the gypsies ; for that " they are 
what their birth And breeding suffers them to be, — Wild out- 
casts of humanity." Now this may be very true ; and a new 
poem might have been written, giving utterance to this milder 
feeling. But it looks like a taint from the grandiloquence of 



3G8 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



the former lines, when " all that stirs in heaven and earth " is 
called to witness this protestation. Nor can one well see why 
a poem needing it should be retained and recognized. Above 
all, there is an abrupt sinking, when the gorgous lines which go 
before are followed by this apology. If the gypsies are merely 
" what their birth And breeding suffers them to be. Wild out- 
casts of humanity," how can it be said that " wrong and strife, 
By nature transient, are better than such torpid life " ? And 
though the words, hy nature transient, as applied to wrong and 
strife, express a deep and grand truth, alas ! they are not so 
transient as the stationariness of the poor vagrants. Why 
again do the stars reprove such a life? Surely the lordly 
powers of Nature have something wiser and juster to do, than 
to shame a knot of outcasts, who are ''what their birth and 
breeding suffers them to be." If they needs must reprove, 
though they hardly look as if they could, they might find many 
things on earth less congenial and more offensive to their heav- 
enly peace. It might afford a wholesome warning to reformers, 
to observe how, in a poem of less than thirty lines, the author 
himself by innovating has shaken the whole structure. 

Another poem, which seems to me to have been sadly im- 
paired by alteration, is one of the author's most beautiful works, 
his Laodamia. When it was originally publisht in 1815, the 
penultimate stanza, which follows the account of her death, ran 
thus : 

Ah, judge her gently, who so deeply loved! 
Her, who in reason's spite, yet without crime, 
Was in a trance of passion thus removed ; 
Delivered from the galling yoke of time, 
And these frail elements^ — to gather flowers 
Of blissful quiet mid unfading bowers. 

In the edition of 1827 this stanza was completely remoulded, 
and appeared in the following shape : 

By no weak pity miglit the gods be moved. 
She who thns perisht, not without the crime 
Of lovers that in reason's spite have loved, 
Was doomed to wander in a grosser clime. 
Apart from happy ghosts, — that gather flowers 
Of blissful quiet mid unfading bowers. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



369 



Here one cannot help noticing the ingenuity with which the 
words are twisted about, to mean the very opposite of their 
original meaning. Yet even in such things it is better not to 
put new wine into old bottles. When a totally different idea is 
to be exprest, it is far likeher to be exprest appropriately in 
words of its own, than in a set of cast-off words, which had 
previously served to clothe some other form of thought. What 
chiefly strikes us however in the new stanza, is the arbitrari- 
ness with which the poet's judgement has veered round ; so 
that, after having raised Laodamia to the joys of Elysium, he 
suddenly condemns her to endless sorrow. In the later edi- 
tions indeed, tlie fourth line has been altered into " Was doomed 
to loear out her appointed time ; " whereby she is elevated from 
the lower regions into Purgatory, and allowed to look for a 
term to her woes. Yet still the sentence first past on her is 
completely reverst. The change too is one contrary to the 
whole order of things, both human and divine. They who 
have been condemned, may be pardoned : but they who have 
already been pardoned, must not be condemned. This is the 
course even of earthly judicatures. Man has an instinct in 
the depths of his consciousness, which teaches him that the 
throne of Mercy is above that of Justice, that wrath is by 
nature transient, and that a sentence of condemnation may be 
revoked, but that the voice of Love is eternal, and that, when 
it has once gone forth, the gates of hell shall not prevail 
against it. 

On first perceiving this change, one naturally supposes that 
some new light must have broken upon the poet, or rather some 
new darkness ; that he must at least have discovered some fresh 
marks of guilt in Laodamia, of which before he was not aware. 
But it is not so. Her words, her actions, her feelings are just 
what they were. The two or three slight alterations in the 
former part of the poem are merely verbal, and no way affect 
her character. If she was " without crime " before, she must be 
so still : if she is " not without crime " now, so must she have 
been from the first. The change is solely in the author's mind, 
without the slightest outward warrant for it: not a straw is 
16* X 



370 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



thrown into the scale : his absolute nod alone makes it rise or 
sink. The only difference is, that he quotes the passage of Vir- 
gil where the shade of Laodamia "is placed in a mournful 
region, among unhappy lovers." But surely Virgil's judgement 
in such a manner is not to overrule that of a Christian poet. 
Although the wisdom of the heathens was in certain respects 
more spiritual than that which has been current of late years, 
this is not one of the points in which we should appeal to their 
decision. The eternal law, by which the happiness and misery 
of man are bound up with his moral and spiritual condition, was 
but dimly recognized in the popular traditions of the ancients. 
The inmates of Tartarus were rather the vanquisht enemies of 
the gods ; and being so regarded, the contemplation was not so 
painful to the moral sense : nor did it imply the same presump- 
tion in the judgement which cast them there. No one would 
now take Virgil as an authority for placing the whining souls of 
infants, wailing over the shortness of their lives, and those who 
had been condemned by unjust sentences, along with suicides, in 
the same mournful region. Nor would all who have perisht 
through love, whether with or without crime, be consigned to 
the same doom ; so as to make Phedra, Procris, Eriphyle, and 
Pasiphae, the companions of Evadne and Laodamia. The in- 
troduction of Evadne, so renowned for her heroic self-devote- 
ment, proves that Virgil was guided in his selection more by 
the similarity of earthly destiny, than by any moral rule : and 
every one may perceive the poetical reason for enumerating the 
martyrs, as well as the guiltier victims, of passionate love ; in- 
asmuch as it is among these shades that Eneas is to find Dido. 

My reason however for referring to the Laodamia was, that 
it is a remarkable instance how the imaginative, ideal unity of 
a work may be violated by an alteration. It is said that Wind- 
ham, when he came to the end of a speech, often found himself 
so perplext by his own subtilty, that he hardly knew which 
way he was going to give his vote. This is a good illustration 
of the fallaciousness of reasoning, and of the uncertainties 
which attend its practical application. Ever since the time of 
the Sophists, Logic has been too ready to maintain either side 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



371 



of a question ; and that, not merely in arguing with others, but 
even Avithin our own bosoms. The workings of the Imagina- 
tion however are far less capricious. When a poet comes to the 
end of his work, it does not rest with him to wind it up in this 
way or that. 

What ! may he not do as he pleases with the creatures of his 
own fancy? 

A true poet would almost as soon think of doing as he pleased 
with his children. He feels that the creations of his imaf^ina- 
tion have an existence and a reality independent of his will ; 
and he therefore regards them with reverence. The close of 
their lives, he feels, must be determined by what has gone be- 
fore. The botchers of Shakspeare indeed have fancied they 
might remodel the catastrophes of his tragedies. One man 
would keep Hamlet alive, — another, Romeo, — a third, Lear. 
Yet even these changes are less violent, and more easily excusa- 
ble, than the entire reversal of Laodamia's sentence. For in 
every earthly, outward event there is something the ground of 
which we cannot discern, and which we therefore ascribe to 
chance: and though in poetry the necessary concatenation of 
events ought to be more apparent, the unity of a character may 
still be preserved under every vicissitude of fortune. But the 
ultimate doom, which must needs be determined by the essence 
of the character itself, cannot be changed without a correspond- 
ing change in the character. 

Horace has w^arned painters against combining a man's head 
with a horse's neck, or making a beautiful woman terminate in 
the tail of a fish. Yet in both these cases we know, from the 
representations of centaurs and mermaids, the combination is 
not incompatible with a certain kind of beauty. Indeed there 
is something pleasing and interesting in the sight of the animal 
nature rising into the human. The reverse, which we some- 
times see in Egyptian idols, the human form topt by the animal, 
— a man for instance with a horse's head, or a woman with a 
fish's, — would on the other hand be purely painful and mon- 
strous ; unless where, as in the case of Bottom, we look on the 
transformation as temporary, and as a piece of grotesque hu- 

I 



372 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



mour. But far more revolting would it be to see a living head 
upon a skeleton, or a death's head upon a living body. In mor- 
al combinations the contrast may not be so glaring : yet surely 
in them also is a harmony which ought not to be violated. The 
idea of the Laodamia, when we view it apart from the ques- 
tionable stanza, is clearly enunciated in those fine lines : 

Love was given, 
Encouraged, sanctioned, chiefly for this end, — 
For this the passion to excess was driven, — 
That self might be annulled, her bondage prove 
The fetters of a dream, opposed to love. 

But as the poem ends now, it directly falsifies this assertion. 
It shows that the excess of love cannot annull self ; that, — so 
far is the bondage of self from being the fetters of a dream, 
opposed to love, — the intensest love, even when blest with the 
special favour of the gods, is powerless against the bondage of 
self. Protesilaus seems to be sent to the prayers of his wife 
for no purpose, except of proving that they who hear not 
Moses and the prophets, will not be persuaded even when one 
rises from the dead. Had the poet's original intention been to 
consign Laodamia to Erebus, the whole scheme of the poem 
must have been different. Her weakness would have been 
brought out more prominently ; and the spirit of Protesilaus 
would hardly have been charged with the utterance of so many 
divine truths, when his sermon was to be as unavailing as if he 
had been preaching to the winds. The impotence of truth is 
not one of the aspects of human life which a poet may well 
choose as the central idea of a grave work. u. 

The reflective spirit is so dominant in the literature of the 
age, and it is so injurious to all pure beauty in composition, that 
perhaps it will not be deemed idle trifling, if I point out one or 
two more instances in which it seems to me too obtrusive. 
And I will select them from the same great master of modem 
poetry ; not only because his works stand criticism, and reward 
it better than most others, so that even, when tracking a fault, 
one is sure to light upon sundry beauties ; but also because he 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



873 



is eminently the poet of his age, the poet in whom the best 
and highest tendencies of his contemporaries have found their 
fullest utterance. 

There are few lovers of poetry but will remember the admi- 
rable account of the sailor in the Brothers ; who 

in his heart 
Was half a shepherd in the stormy seas. 
Oft in the piping shrouds had Leonard heard 
The tones of waterfaUs, and inland sounds 
Of caves and trees ; and when the regular wind 
Between the tropics filled the steady sail, 
And blew with the same breath through days and wee 
Lengthening invisibly its Aveary line 
Along the cloudless main, he, in those hours 
Of tiresome indolence, Avould often hang 
Over the vessel's side, and gaze, and gaze; 
And, while the broad green wave and sparkling foam 
Flasht round him images and hues that wrought 
\\\ union with the employment of his heart, 
He, thus by feverish jyassion overcome, 
Even with the organs of his bodily eye 
Below him, in the bosom of the deep, 
Saw mountains, saw the forms of sheep that grazed 
On verdant hills, with dwellings among trees. 
And shepherds clad in the same country gray, 
Which he himself had worn. 

Beautiful as this passage is, it would be all the better, I 
think, if the first of the two lines printed in italics were omit- 
ted, and the emphasis of the second diminisht. At present they 
rather belong to a psychological analysis, than to a poetical rep- 
resentation, of feelings. It is true, the vision would be the 
effect of " feverish passion : " it would be visible " even to the 
organs of the bodily eye." So it is true, that a blush is caused 
by a sudden suffusion of blood to the cheek. But, though it 
might be physiologically correct to say, that, in consequence of 
the accelerated beating of the heart, there was such a determi- 
nation of blood to the face, — the part of the body most ap- 
parent to him by whom the blush was occasioned, — that the 
veins became full, and the skin was tinged by it ; yet no poet 
would write thus. The poet's business is to represent the effect, 
not the cause ; the stem and leaves and blossoms, not the root ; 



374 



GUESSES AT TEUTH. 



that which is visible to the imagination, not that which is dis- 
cerned by the understanding : akhough by bringing out the im- 
portant moment, which he selects for representation, and by 
insulating it from the extraneous circumstances, which in ordi- 
nary life surround and conceal it, he enables us to disceern the 
causes more immediately, than we should do when our thoughts 
are bewildered in the maze of outward realities. 
Or look at this little poem : 

Let other bards of angels sing, 

Bright suns without a spot : 
But thou art no such perfect thing: 

Rejoice that thou art not. 

Such if thou wert in all men's view, 

A universal show, 
What tvould my fancy have to do ? 

My feelinr/s to bestow ? 

Heed not, though none should call thee fair: 

So, Mary, let it be ! 
If nought in loveliness compare 

With what thou art to me. 

True beauty dwells in deep retreats, 

Whose veil is unremoved, 
Till heart with heart in concord beats, 

And the lover is beloved. 

This poem again, it seems to me, w^ould be exceedingly im- 
proved by the expulsion of the second stanza. The other 
three have a sweet, harmonious unity, and express a truth, 
which if any one has not felt, he is greatly to be pitied. But 
the second stanza jars quite painfully with the others. Even 
if the thought conveyed in it were accurately true, it would be 
bringing forward the internal process, which in poetry ought to 
be latent. It is only a partial truth however, which, being 
stated by itself, as though it were the whole truth, becomes 
false. Beauty is represented, according to the notions of the 
egoistical idealists, as purely subjective, as a mere creation of 
the beholder : whereas it arises from the conjoint and recipro- 
cal action of the beholder and the object, as is so exquisitely 
expressed in the last stanza. Beauty is indeed in the mind, in 
the feelings : were there not the idea of Beauty in the beholden, 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



375 



associated with the feehng of pleasure, nothing would be beau- 
tiful or lovely to him. But it is also in the object : and the union 
and communion of the two is requisite to its full perception. 
According to the second stanza, the uglier a woman was the 
more beautiful would she be : for the more would our fancy 
have to do, our feelings to bestow. And conversely, the more 
beautiful she was, the more destitute would she be of beauty. 

Besides there is an unpoetical exclusiveness and isolation in 
grudging that what we deem beautiful should be beautiful " in 
all men's view," and in speaking scornfully of what is so as " a 
universal show." The poet will indeed perceive deeper and 
more spiritual beauties than other men ; and he will discern 
hidden springs and sources of Beauty, where others see noth- 
ing of the sort : but he will also acknowledge with thankful- 
ness, that Beauty is spread abroad through earth and sea and 
sky, and dwells on the face and form, and in the heart of man : 
and he will shrink from the thought of its being a thing which 
he, or any one else, could monopohze. He will deem that the 
highest and most blessed privilege of his genius is, that it en- 
ables him to cherish the widest and fullest sympathy with the 
hearts and thoughts of his brethren. u. 

" There is one class of minds (says Schelling, Philosophische 
Schrifteii, i. 388), who think ahout things, another, who strive 
to understand them in themselves, according to the essential 
properties of their nature." This is one of the momentous dis- 
tinctions between men of productive genius, and men of reflective 
talents. In the history of literature we find exam2:)les without 
number, how, on eating of the Tree of Knowledge, we are ban- 
isht from the Tree of Life. Poets, it is plain from the very 
meaning of the word 'poetry^ if they have any claim to their 
title, must belong to the class whose aim is to think and know 
the things themselves. Nor poets only: all that is best and 
truly living in history, in philosophy, and even in science, must 
have its root in the same essential knowledge, as distinguisht 
from that which is merely circumstantial. 

Here we have the reason why Poetry has been wont to 



376 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



flourish most in the earher ages of a nation's intellectual life ; 
because essential knowledge is not so apt then to be overrun, 
and stunted or driven awry, by circumstantial, production by 
reflection. In all poetry that is really such, if it pretend to 
more than an ephemeral existence, as in all life, there must be 
a mysterious basis, which is and ever must be incomprehensible 
to the reflective understanding. There must be something in 
it w^hich can only be apprehended by a corresponding act of 
the imagination, discerning and reproducing the incarnate idea. 
Now that Avhich cannot be comprehended by the reflective un- 
derstanding of others, can still less have been produced by an 
act of the poet's own reflective understanding. Its source must 
lie deep within him, below the surface of his consciousness. 
The waters which are spread out above that surface, and which 
are not fed by an unseen fountain, are sure to dry up, and will 
never form a living, perennial stream. Indeed, if we look 
through the history of poetry, we find, in the case of all the 
greatest and most genial works, that, though their beauty may 
have manifested itself immediately to the simple instinctive feel- 
ings of mankind, ages have past away before the reflective under- 
standing has attained anything like a correct estimate and anal- 
ysis of their merits. For they have been truly mysterious, and 
have indeed possest a hidden life. But of most modern works 
it may be said, that they have been brought down to the level 
of the meanest capacities. That which is designed to be the 
most mysterious in them, is thrust the most conspicuously into 
view. They need no time, no study, to detect their beauties. 
Knowing from their own consciousness how unimaginative men 
are wont to be, the authors interline their works with a com- 
mentary on their merits, and act as guides through their own 
estates. It is much as if all the leaves and flowers in a garden 
were to be suddenly gifted with voices, and to begin crying out 
in clamorous consort, Come and look at me, how beautiful I am! 
What could a lover of Nature do amid such a hubbub, but seek 
out a tuft of violets, which could not but still be silent, and bury 
his face in it, and weep ? 

The examples hitherto cited, of the harm done to poetry by 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



377 



the intrusion of reflexion, have referred merely to lesser points 
of detail, and have been taken from the works of one who is in- 
deed a poet of great imaginative power ; although he too, as all 
men must, bears the marks of his age, of its weakness, as well 
as of its strength. There have been writers however, in whom 
the shadow has almost supplanted the substance, who give us 
the ghosts of things, instead of the realities, and who, having 
been taught to observe the ideas impersonated in the master- 
pieces of former ages, think they too may start up and claim 
rank among the priests of the Muses, if they set about giving 
utterance to the same ideas loudly and sonorously. They for- 
get that roots should lie hid, that the heart and lungs and all 
the vital processes are out of sight, and that, if they are laid 
bare to the light, death ensues : and they would fain stick 
their roots atop of their heads, and carry their hearts in their 
hands. Instead of representing persons, we are apt to describe 
them. iS'ay, to shorten the labour, as others cannot look into 
them, and see all the inward movements of their feelings, they 
are made to describe themselves. 

Some dramatic writers have been wont to preface their plays 
with descriptive accounts of the characters they are about to 
bring on the stage. Shadwell, for instance, did so : the list of 
the dramatis personae in the Squire of Ahatia fills three pages : 
and a like practice is found in Wycherly, Congreve, and other 
writers of their times. Indeed it accords with the nature of 
their works, which are chiefly remarkable for wit, — a quality 
dealing in contrasts, and therefore implying the distinct con- 
sciousness necessarily brought out thereby, — and for acuteness 
of observation, where the observer feels himself set over against 
the objects he is observing : so that they are rather the offspring 
of the reflective understanding, working consciously in selecting, 
arranging, and combining the materials supplied to it from with- 
out, than of any genial, spontaneous, imaginative throes. Jon- 
son too prefixt an elaborate catalogue of the same sort to his 
Every Man out of his Humour: and in him again we see a 
like predominance of reflexion, though in a mind of a higher 
and robuster order : nor are his characters the creations of a 



378 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



plastic imagination, blending the various elements of humanity 
indistinguishably into a living whole ; but mosaic constructions, 
designed to exhibit the enormities and extravagances of some 
peculiar humour. All such lists are merely clumsy devices for 
furnishing the reader with what he ought to deduce from the 
works themselves. It is offensively obtrusive to tell us before- 
hand what judgement we are to form on the persons we read of. 
It prevents our regarding them as living men, whom we are to 
study, and to compare with our idea of human nature. Instead 
of this we view them as fictions for an express purpose, and 
compare them therewith. We think, not what they are, but 
how they exemplify the proposition which the writer designed 
to enforce : and wherever the author's purpose is prominent, 
art degenerates into artifice. In logic indeed the enunciation 
rightly precedes the proof. But the workings of poetry are 
more subtile and complicated and indirect : nor are our feelings 
so readily toucht by what a man intends to say or to do or to 
be, as by what he says and does and is without intending it. 
Thus we involuntarily recognise the hoUowness of all that man 
does, when cut off from that spring of life, which, though in 
him, is not of him. Moreover to the author himself it must 
needs be hurtful, when he sets to work with a definite pur- 
pose of exhibiting such and such quahties, instead of living, 
concrete men. It leads him to consider, not how such a man 
would speak and act, but how on every oci?asion he may display 
his besetting humour ; which yet in real life he would mostly 
conceal, and which would scarcely vent itself, except under 
some special excitement, when he was thrown off his balance, 
and made forgetful of self-restraint. 

Still the humours and peculiar aspects of human nature thus 
portrayed by the second-rate poets of former times are those 
which do actually rise the most conspicuously and obtrusively 
above the common surface of life, and which not seldom betray 
themselves by certain fixt habits of sj^eech, gesture, and man- 
ner ; so that there is less inappropriateness in their being made 
thus prominent. But the psychological analysis of criticism 
has enabled us to discern deeper and more latent springs, and 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



.379 



more delicate shades, of feeling in the masters of poetry : and 
those feelings, which are only genuine and powerful when 
latent, are now drawn forward into view, whereupon they 
splash and vanish. 

For example, no sooner had attention been called, some fifty 
years ago, to the powerful influence exercised by Fate, as the 
dark ground of the Greek tragedies, than poet after poet in 
Germany, from Schiller downward, set about composing trage- 
dies on the principle of fatality ; each insisting that his own 
was the true Fate, and that all others were spurious and ficti- 
tious. And so in fact they were: only his was no less so. 
Nor could it well be otherw^ise. When the Greek tragedians 
wrote, the overruling powder of Fate was a living article of 
faith, both with them and with the people ; as everything 
ought to be, which is made the leading idea in a tragedy. 
Since a drama, by the conditions of its representation, addresses 
itself to the assembled people, if it is to act strongly upon them, 
it must appeal to those feelings and thoughts which actually 
hold sw^ay over them. Tragic poetry is indeed fond of draw- 
ing its plots and personages from the stores of ancient history 
or fable; partly because the immediate present is too full of 
petty details to coalesce into a grand imaginative unity, whereas 
antiquity even of itself is majestic ; partly because it stirs so 
many personal feelings and interests, which sort ill with dignity 
and with solemn contemplation; and partly because a tragic 
catastrophe befalling a contemporary would have too much of 
painful horrour. Yet, though the personages of tragedy may 
rightly be taken from former ages, or from forein countries, — 
remoteness in space being a sort of equivalent for remoteness 
in time, — still a true dramatic poet w^ill always make the uni- 
versal human element in his characters predominate over the 
accidental costume of age and country. Nor will he bring 
forward any mode of faith or superstition as a prominent agent 
in his tragedy, except such as will meet with something respon- 
sive in the popular belief of his age. When Shakspeare wTote, 
almost everybody believed in ghosts and witches. Hence it is 
difficult for us to conceive the impression which must have been 



380 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



made on such an audience by Hamlet and Macbeth: whereas 
the witches in the latter play now, on the stage, produce the 
effect of broad, fantastical caricatures ; and so far are we from 
comprehending the power which the demoniacal apparitions 
exercised over Macbeth's mind, that they are seldom seen 
without peals of hoarse, dissonant laughter. In like manner 
Fate, in the modern German tragedies, instead of being awful, 
is either ludicrous or revolting. As it is not an object of faith, 
either with the poet or his hearers, so that they would hardly 
observe its latent working, he brings it forth into broad day- 
light ; and his whole representation is cold, artificial, pompous, 
and untrue. While in Greek tragedy Fate stalks in silence 
among the generations of mankind, visiting the sins of the 
fathers upon the children and grandchildren, — Trjs /uei/ ff anako\ 
nobes ' 01) yap err ovdei UiXvarai, aXX' npa rjye kot dvdpcov Kpaara 
^aivei, — on the modern German stage it clatters in wooden 
shoes, and springs its rattle, and clutches its victim by the 
throat. u. 



Your good sayings would be far better, if you did not think 
them so good. He who is in a hurry to laugh at his own jests, 
is apt to make a false start, and then has to return with down- 
cast head to his place. u. 



Many nowadays write what may be called a dashing style. 
Unable to put much meaning into their words, they try to eke 
it out by certain marks which they attach to them, something 
like pigtails sticking out at right angles to the body. The finest 
models of this style are in the articles by the original editor of 
the Edinburgh Review, and in Lord Byron's poems, above all, 
in the Corsair, his most popular work, as one might have ex- 
pected that it would be, seeing that his faults came to a head 
in it. A couplet from the Bride of Ahydos may instance my 
meaning. 

A thousand swords — thy Selim's heart and hand — 
Wait — wave — defend — destroy — at thy command. 

How much grander is this, than if there had been nothmg 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



381 



between the lines but commas ! even as a pigtail is grander 
than a curl, or at least has been deemed so by many a German 
prince. Tacitus himself, though his words are already as solid 
and substantial as one can wish, yet, when translated, is drest 
after the same fashion, with a skewer jutting out here and 
there. The celebrated sentence of Galgacus is turned into 
He makes a solitude — and calls it — peace. The noble poet 
places a flourish after every second word, like a vulgar writing- 
master. Or perhaps they are rather marks of admiration, 
standing prostrate, as Lord Castlereagh would have exprest it. 
Nor are upright ones spared. u. 



Are you quite sure that Pygmahon is the only person who 
ever fell in love with his own handiwork ? u. 



" In good prose (says Frederic Schlegel) every word should 
be underlined." That is, every word should be the riglit word ; 
and then no word would be righter than another. There ai-e 
no italics in Plato. 

What ! asks Holofernes ; did Plato print his books all in 
romans ? 

In mentioning Plato, I mentioned him whose style seems to 
be the summit of perfection. But if it be . objected that the 
purpose of italics is to give force to style, which Plato, from 
the character of his subjects, was not solicitous about, I would 
reply, that there are no italics in Demosthenes. Nor are there 
in any of the Greek or Roman wa-iters, though some of them 
were adepts in the art of putting as much meaning into words, 
as words are well fitted to bear. 

Among the odd combinations which Chance is ever and anon 
turning up, few are more whimsical than the notion that one is 
to gain strength by substituting italics for romans. In Italy 
one should not be surprised, if for the converse change a man 
were to incur a grave suspicion of designing to revive the pro- 
jects of Rienzi, to be expiated by half a dozen years of car- 
cere duro. Nay, the very shape of the letters would rather 
lead to the opposite conclusion, that morhidezza was the quality 
aimed at. 



382 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Two large classes of persons in these days are fond of under- 
lining their words. 

It is a favorite practice with a number of female letter-writ- 
ers, — those, I mean, who have not yet crost over the river of 
self-consciousness into the region of quiet, unobtrusive grace, 
and whose intellectual pulses are always in a flutter, at one 
moment thumping, the next scarcely perceptible. Their con- 
sciousness of no-meaning worries them so, that the meaning, 
which, they are aware, is not in any words they can use, they 
try to put into them by scoring them, like a leg of pork, which 
their letters now and then much resemble. 

On the other hand some men of vigorous minds, but more 
conversant with things than with words, and who, having never 
studied composition as an art, have not learnt that the real force 
of style must be effortless, and consists mainly in its simplicity 
and appropriateness, fancy that common words are not half 
strong enough to say what they want to say ; and so they try 
to strengthen them by writing them in a different character. 
Men of science do this : for words with them are signs, which 
must stand out to be conspicuous. Soldiers often do this : for, 
though a few of them are among the most skilful in the drilling 
and manouvring of words, the chief j)art have no notion that a 
word may be louder than a cannon-ball, and sharper than a 
sword. Cobbett again is profuse of italics. This instance may 
be supposed to refute the assertion, that the writers who use 
them are not verst in the art of composition. But, though 
Cobbett was a wonderful master of plain speech, all his writ- 
ings betray his want of logical and literary culture. He had 
never sacrificed to the Graces ; who cannot be won without 
many sacrifices. He cared only for strength ; and, as his own 
bodily frame was of the Herculean, rather than the Apollinean 
cast, he thought that a man could not be very strong, unless he 
displayed his thews. Besides a Damascus blade would not 
have gasht his enemies enough for his taste : he liked to have 
a few notches on his sword. 

To a refined taste a parti-lettered page is much as if a musi- 
cian were to strike a note every now and then in a wrong key, 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



383 



for the sake of startling attention. The proper use of italics 
seems to be, when the word italicized is not meant to be a mere 
part of the flowing medium of thought, but is singled out to be 
made a special object of notice, whether on account of its ety- 
mology, or of something peculiar in its form or meaning. As 
the word is employed in a different mode, there is a sort of rea- 
son for marking that difference by a difference of character. 
On like grounds words in a forein language, speeches intro- 
duced, whether in a narrative or a didactic work, quotations 
from Scripture, and those words in other quotations to which 
attention is especially called, as bearing immediately on the 
point under discussion, may appropriately be printed in italics. 
This rule seems to agree with the practice of the best French 
writers, as well as of our own, and is confirmed by the best edi- 
tions of the Latin classics, in which orthography, punctuation, 
and the like minuter matters, are treated far more carefully 
than in modern works. u. 



What a dull, stupid lake ! It makes no noise : one can't 
hear it flowing : it is as still as a sheet of glass. It rolls no 
mud along, and no soapsuds. It lets you see into it, and 
through it, and does nothing all day but look at the sky, and 
show you pictures of everything round about, which are just as 
like as if they were the very things themselves. And if you 
go to drink, it shews you your own face. Hang it ! I wish 
it would give us something of its own. I wish it Avould roar 
a little. 

Such is the substance of Bottom's criticisms on Goethe, 
which in one or other of his shapes he has brayed out in many 
an English Review. Sometimes one might fancy he must have 
seen the vision which scared Peter Bell. 

Nor is Goethe the only writer who has to stand reproved, 
because he does not pamper the love of noise and dust. Nor 
is it in books alone that our morbid restlessness desires to find 
a response. The howling wind lashes the waves, and makes 
them roar in symphony. This is a type of the spirit which 
revels in revolutions. u. 



384 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Why do you drug your wine ? a merchant was askt by one of 
his customers. 

Because nobody loould drinh it without. 

Is it not just so with Truth? Bacon at least has declared 
that it is : and how many writers have lived in the course of 
three thousand years, who have not acted on this persuasion, 
more or less distinctly ? nay, how many men who have not dealt 
in like manner even with their own hearts and minds ? u. 



We have learnt to exclaim against the yew-trees which are 
cut out into such fantastical shapes in Dutch gardens, and to 
recognize that a yew-tree ought to be a yew-tree, and not a 
peacock or a swan. This may seem a trivial truism ; and yet 
it is an important truth, of very wide and manifold application : 
though it does not involve that we are to let children run wild, 
and that all Education is a violation of Nature. But it does 
involve the true principle of Education, and may teach us that 
its business is to educe, or bring out, that which is within, not 
merely, or mainly, to instruct, or impose a form without. Only 
we are not framed to be self-sufficient, but to derive our nour- 
isment, intellectual and spiritual, as well as bodily, from with- 
out, through the ministration of others ; and hence Instruction 
must ever be a chief element of Education. Hence too we 
obtain a criterion to determine what sort of Instruction is right 
and beneficial, — that which ministers to Education, which 
tends to bring out, to nourish and cultivate the faculties of the 
mind, not that which merely piles a mass of information upon 
them. Moreover since Nature, if left to herself, is ever prone 
to run wild, and since there are hurtful and perniciqus elements 
around us, as well as nourishing and salutary, pruning and 
sheltering, correcting and protecting are also among the prin- 
cipal offices of Education. 

But the love of artificiality is not restricted to the Dutch, in 
whom it may find much excuse from the meagre poverty of the 
forms of Nature around them, and whose country itself thus in 
a manner prepared them for becoming the Chinese of Europe. 
There are still many modes in which few can be brought to 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



385 



acknowledge that a yew-tree ought to be a yew-tree : and when 
we think how beautiful a yew-tree is, left to itself, and crowned 
with the solemn grandeur of a thousand years, we need not 
marvel that people should be slower to admit this proposition 
as to things less majestic and more fleeting. Indeed I hardly 
know who ever lived, except perhaps Shakspeare, who did 
acknowledge it in its fulness and variety : and even he doubt- 
less can only have done so in the mirror of his world-reflecting 
imagination. At all events very many are most reluctant to 
acknowledge it, and that too under the impulse of totally oppo- 
site feelings, not merely with regard to persons whom they dis- 
like, and whom they paint, like Bolognese pictures, on a dark 
ground, but even with regard to their friends, whom they ought 
to love for what they are. Yet they will not let their friends 
be such as they are, or such as they were meant to be, but pare 
and twist them into imaginary shapes, as though they could 
not love them until they had made dolls of them, until they saw 
the impress of their own hands upon them. So too is it with 
most writers of fiction, and even of history. They do not give 
us living men, but either puppets, or skeletons, or, it may be, 
shadows : and these puppets may at times be giants, as though 
a LilHputian were dandling a Brobdignagian. For bigness with 
the bulk of mankind is the nearest synonym for greatness. XJ. 



A celebrated preacher is in the habit of saying, that, in 
preaching, the thing of least consequence is the Sermon : and 
they who remember the singular popularity of the late Dean 
Andrewes, or who turn from the other records of Bishop Wil- 
son's life to his writings, will feel that there is more in this 
saying than its strangeness. The latter instance shews that the 
most effective of all sermons, and that which gives the greatest 
efiicacy to every other, is the sermon of a Christian life. 

But, apart from this consideration, the saying just cited 
coincides in great measure with the declaration of Demosthe- 
nes, that, in speaking, Delivery is the first thing, and the second, 
and the third. For this reason oratorical excellence is rightly 
called Eloquence. 

17 Y 



386 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Commonly indeed the apophthegm of Demosthenes has been 
understood in a narrower sense, as limited to Action, whereby 
it becomes a startUng paradox. Even Landor has adopted this 
version of it, and makes Eschines attack Demosthenes on ac- 
count of this absurdity, in his Conversation with Phocion; 
while Demosthenes, in that with Eubulides, adduces this as a 
main distinction between himself and Pericles, expressing it 
with characteristic majesty : I have been studious to bring the 
powers of Action into play, that great instrument in exciting 
the affections, which Pericles disdained. He and Jupiter could 
strike any head with their thunderbolts, and stand serene and 
immovable : I could not." And again a little after : " Pericles, 
you have heard, used none, but kept his arm wrapt up within 
his vest. Pericles was in the enjoyment of that power, which 
his virtues and his abilities well deserved. If he had carried 
in his bosom the fire that burns in mine, he would have kept 
his hand outside." 

Still this interpretation seems to have no better origin than 
the passages in which Cicero, when alluding to the anecdote of 
Demosthenes {De Oral. iii. 56. De Clar. Orat. 38. Orat. 17), 
uses the word Actio. Many errours have arisen from the con- 
founding of special significations of words, which are akin, both 
etymologically and in their primary meaning, like Actio and 
Action. But I believe, the Latin Actio, in its rhetorical appli- 
cation, was never restricted within our narrow bounds : indeed 
w^e ourselves reject this restriction in the dramatic use of acting 
and actor. The vivid senses of the Romans felt that the more 
spiritual members of the body can act, as well as the grosser 
and more massive ; and they who have lived in southern climes 
know that this attribute of savage life has not been extinguisht 
there by civilization. Indeed the context in the three passages 
of Cicero ought to have prevented the blunder : his principal 
agents are the voice and the eyes : " animi est enim omnis actio, 
et imago animi vultus, indices oculi : " and he defines Actio to 
be " corporis quaedam eloquentia, cum constet e voce atque 
motu." Even after the mistake had been made, it ought to 
have been corrected, by the observation that Quintilian (xi. 3) 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



387 



has substituted Pronunciatio for Actio. But the whole story is 
plain, and the exaggeration accounted for, when we read it in 
the Lives of the Ten Orators ascribed to Plutarch. Every 
one has heard of the bodily disadvantages which Demosthenes 
had to contend with. No man has more triumphantly demon- 
strated the dominion of the mind over the body; for few 
speakers have had graver natural disqualifications for oratory, 
than he whose name in the history of oratory stands beyond 
competition the foremost. Having been cought down, as we 
term it, one day, he w^as walking home despondently. But 
Eunomus the Thriasian, who was already an old man, met him 
and encouraged him; so too did the actor Andronicus still 
more, telling him that his speeches were w^ell, but that he 
failed in action and dehvery (XfiVoi fie ra r^y InoKplo-eais). He 
then reminded him of what he had spoken in the assembly ; 
whereupon Demosthenes, believing him, gave himself up to the 
instruction of Andronicus. Hence, when some one askt him 
what is the first thing in oratory, he said inoKpio-is, Mariner, or 
Delivery ; what the second ? Delivery ; what the third ? De- 
livery, In this story there may perhaps be some slight inac- 
curacies ; but in substance it agrees with Plutarch's account in 
his Life of Demosthenes, § viii. 

We may deem it an essential character of Genius, to be 
unconscious of its own excellence. If a man of genius is a 
vain man, he will be vain of what is not his genius. But we 
are very apt to overrate a talent, which has been laboriously 
trained and cultivated. Thus Petrarch lookt to his Africa for 
immortality, and Shakspeare to his Sonnets, more, it would 
seem, than to his Plays. Thus too Bacon " conceived that the 
Latine volume of his Essayes, being in the universal language, 
might last as long as bookes last ; " though other considerations 
are also to be taken into account here. No w^onder then that 
Demosthenes somewhat overvalued an attainment, which had 
cost him so much trouble, and in which the speech of Eschines, 
— What would you have said, if you had heard the beast him- 
self? — proves that he had achieved so much in overcoming the 
disabilities of his nature ; so much indeed, that Dionysius (ttc/jI 

I 



388 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Trjs XcKTiK^s Arjfioo-Bevovs dfivorrjTos, § xxii.) sajs, that he was 
acknowledged by all to be the most consummate master of 
vnoKpia-is. His own experience had taught him how the effect 
of a speech depended almost entirely upon its delivery, by the 
defects of Avhich his earlier orations had been marred; as 
Bacon, in his Essay on Boldness, after giving the erroneous 
version of our anecdote, remarks : " He said it, that knew it 
best, and had by nature himself no advantage in that he com- 
mended." The objections which are subjoined to this remark, 
are founded mainly on the misunderstanding of what Demos- 
thenes had said. 

Still, though there is a considerable analogy between the 
importance of manner or delivery in speaking and in preaching, 
it should be borne in mind that nothing is more injurious to the 
effect of the latter, than whatever is artificial, studied, theatrical. 
Besides, while, as a friend observes, vnoKpia-is has often been a 
main ingredient in oratory under more senses than one, when it 
enters into preaching under the sense denounced in the New 
Testament, it is the poison, a drop of which shivers the glass to 
atoms. In fact the reason why delivery is of such force, is that, 
unless a man appears by his outward look and gesture to be 
himself animated by the truths he is uttering, he will not ani- 
mate his hearers. It is the live coal that kindles others, not 
the dead. Nay, the same principle applies to all oratory ; 
and what made Demosthenes the greatest of orators, was that 
he appeared the most entirely possest by the feelings he 
wisht to inspire. The main use of his viroKptais was, that it 
enabled him to remove the natural hindrances which checkt 
and clogged the stream of those feelings, and to pour them forth 
with a free and mighty torrent that swept his audience along. 
The effect produced by Charles Fox, who by the exaggerations 
of party-spirit was often compared to Demosthenes, seems to 
have arisen wholly from this earnestness, which made up for 
the want of almost every grace, both of manner and style, u. 

Most people, I should think, must have been visited at times 
by those moods of waywardness, in which a feeling adopts the 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



389 



language usually significant of its opposite. Oppressive joy- 
finds vent in tears ; frantic grief laughs. So inadequate are the 
outward exponents of our feelings, that, when a feeling swells 
beyond its wont, it bursts through its ordinary face, and lays 
bare the reverse of it. Something of the sort may be discerned 
in the exclamation of Eschines just quoted. No laudatory term 
could have exprest his admiration so forcibly as the single 

word drjpiov. u. 

The proposition asserted a couple of pages back, that genius 
is unconscious of its own excellence, has been contested by my 
dear friend. Sterling, in his Essay on Carlyle. In his argu- 
ment on this point there is some truth, which required perhaps 
to be stated, for the sake of limiting the too exclusive enforce- 
ment of the opposite truth : but there is no sufficient recogni- 
tion of that opposite truth, which is of far greater moment in 
the present stage of the human mind, and which Mr. Carlyle 
had been proclaiming with much power, though not without his 
favorite exaggerations. I will not take upon me to arbitrate 
between the combatants, by trying to shew how far each is in 
the right, and where each runs into excess : but, as Sterling 
adduces some passages from Shakspeare's Sonnets, in proof 
that he was not so unconscious of his own greatness, as he has 
commonly been deemed, I will rejoin, that the distinction 
pointed out above seems to remove this objection. If Shak- 
speare speaks somewhat boastfully of his Sonnets, we are to 
remember that they Avere not, like his Plays, the spontaneous 
utterances and creations of his Genius, but artificial composi- 
tions, artificial even in their structure, and alien in their origin, 
hardly yet naturalized. Besides there is a sort of conventional 
phraseology, handed down from the age of Horace, and which 
he had inherited from that of Pindar, whereby poets magnify 
their art, declaring that, while all other memorials of greatness 
perish, those committed to immortal verse will endure. In 
speaking thus the poet is magnifying his art, rather than him- 
self. But of the wonderful excellence of his Plays, we have 
no reason for believing that Shakspeare was at all aware; 



390 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



though Sterling does not go beyond the mark, ^Yhen he says, 
that, " if in the wreck of Britain, and all she has produced, one 
creation of her spirit could be saved by an interposing Genius, 
to be the endowment of a new world," it would be the volume 
that contains them. Yet Shakspeare himself did not take the 
trouble of publishing that volume ; and even the single Plays 
printed during his life seem to have been intended for jDlay- 
goers, rather than to gain fame for their author. 

I grant that, in this world of ours, in which the actual is ever 
diverging from or falling short of its idea, the unconsciousness, 
which belongs to Genius in its purity, cannot be preserved un- 
defiled, any more than that which belongs to Goodness in its 
purity. Miserable experience must have taught us that it is 
impossible not to let the left hand laiow what the right hand 
is doing; and yet this is the aim set before us, not merely the 
lower excellence of not letting others know, but the Divine 
Perfection of not knowing it ourselves. The same thing holds 
with regard to Genius. There are numbers of alarums on all 
sides to arouse our self-consciousness, should it ever flag or lag, 
from our cradle upward. Whithersoever we go, we have bells 
on our toes to regale our carnal hearts with their music ; and 
bellmen meet us in every street to sound their chimes in our 
ears. Others tell us how clever we are ; and we repeat the 
sweet strains with ceaseless iteration, magnifying them at every 
repetition. Hence it is next to a marvel if Genius can ever 
preserve any of that unconsciousness which belongs to its es- 
sence ; and this is why, when all talents are multiplying. Genius 
becomes rarer and rarer with the increase of civilization, as is 
also the fate of its moral analogon, Heroism. Narcissus-like it 
■wastes away in gazing on its own loved image. 

Yet still Nature is mighty, in spite of all that man does to 
weaken and pervert her. Samsons are still born ; and though 
to the fulness and glory of their strength it is requisite that the 
razor should not trim their exuberant locks into forms which 
they may regard with complacency in the flattering mirror of 
self-consciousness, the hair, after it has been cut off, may still 
grow again, and they may recover some of their pristine vigour. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



391 



But in such cases, as has been instanced in so many of the 
most genial minds during the hist hundred years, the energies, 
which had been cropt and checkt by the perversities of the so- 
cial system, are apter, when they burst out afresh, for the work 
of destruction, than of production, even at the cost of perishing 
among the ruins, which they drag down on the objects of their 
hatred. 

Of the poets of recent times, the one who has achieved the 
greatest victory over the obstructions presented to the pure ex- 
ercise of the Imagination by the reflective spirit and the restless 
self-consciousness of modern civilization, there can be little 
question, is Goethe : and the following remarks in one of Schil- 
ler's letters to him may help us to understand how that victory 
was gained, confirming and illustrating much of what has just 
been said. " Your attentive observation, which rests upon ob- 
jects with such calmness and simplicity, preserves you from the 
risk of wandering into those by-paths, into wliich both Specu- 
lation and Imagination, when following its own arbitrary im- 
pulses, are so apt to stray. Your unerring intuitions embrace 
everything in far more completeness, which Analysis labori- 
ously hunts out ; and solely because it lies thus as a whole in 
you, are you unaware of your own riches : for unhappily we 
only know what we separate. Minds of your class therefore 
seldom know how far they have penetrated, and how little rea- 
son they have to borrow from Philosophy, which has only to 
learn from them. Philosophy can merely resolve what is 
given to her : giving is not the act of Analysis, but of Genius, 
which carries on its combinations according to objective laws, 
under the dim but sure guidance of the pure Reason. — • You 
seek for what is essential in Nature ; but you seek it by the 
most difficult path, from which a weaker intellect would shrink. 
You take the whole of Nature together, in order to gain light 
on its particular members : in the totality of its phenomena you 
search after the explanation of individual objects. From the 
simplest forms of organization, you mount step by step to the 
more complex, so as at length to construct the most complex of 
all, man, genetically out of the materials of the whole edifice of 



392 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Nature. By reproducing liim, so to say, in conformity to the 
l^rocess of Nature, you try to pierce into his liidden structure. 
A great and truly heroic idea ! which sufficiently shews how 
your mind combines the rich aggregate of your conceptions into 
a beautiful unity. You can never have hoped that your life 
would be adequate for such a purpose ; but the mere entering 
on such a course is of higher value than the completion of any 
other ; and you have chosen like Achilles between Phthia and 
immortality. Had you been born a Greek, or even an Italian, 
and been surrounded from your cradle by exquisite forms of 
Nature and ideal forms of Art, j our journey would have been 
greatly shortened, or perhaps rendered wholly needless. The 
very first aspect of things would have presented them in their 
necessary forms ; and your earliest experience would have led 
you to the grand style in art. But, as you were born a Ger- 
man, as your Greek mind was cast into our Northern world, 
you had no other choice, except either to become a Northern 
artist, or by the help of reflexion to gain for your imagination, 
what the realities around you denied to it, and thus by a sort of 
inward act and intellectual process to bring forth your works as 
though you were in Greece. At that period of life, at which 
the soul fashions its inner world from the outer, being sur- 
rounded by defective forms, you had received the impressions of 
our wild, Northern Nature, when your victorious Genius, being 
superior to its materials, became inwardly conscious of this 
want, and was outwardly confirmed in its consciousness through 
your acquaintance with the Nature of Greece. Hereupon you 
were forced to correct the old impressions previously graven on 
your imafjination by a meaner Nature, according to the higher 
model which your formative spirit created ; and such a work 
cannot be carried on, except under the guidance of ideal con- 
ceptions. But this logical direction, which the spirit of reflex- 
ion is compelled to take, does not agree well with the esthetical 
processes through which alone the mind can produce. Thus 
you had an additional labour ; for, as you hfid past over from im- 
mediate contemplations to abstractions, you had now to transform 
your conceptions back again into intuitions, and your tlioughts 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



393 



into feelings ; because it is only by means of these that Genius 
can bring forth. This is the notion I have formed of the course 
of your mind ; and you will know best whether I am right. But 
what you can hardly know, — because Genius is always the 
greatest mystery to itself, — is the happy coincidence of your 
philosophical instinct with the jDurest results of speculative 
Reason. At first sight indeed it would seem as though there 
could be no stronger opposition than between the speculative 
spirit, which starts from unity, and the intuitive, which starts 
from multiplicity. But if the former seeks after Experience 
with a chaste and faithful purpose, and if the latter seeks after 
Law with a free, energetic exercise of thought, they cannot 
fail of meeting halfway. It is true that the intuitive mind deals 
only with individuals, and the speculative with classes. But if 
an intuitive spirit is genial, and seeks for the impress of neces- 
sity in the objects of experience, though it will always produce 
individuals, they will bear the character of a class : and if the 
speculative spirit is genial, and does not lose sight of experi- 
ence, while rising above experience, though it will only produce 
classes, they will be capable of life, and have a direct relation 
to realities." 

There are some questionable positions in this passage, above 
all, the exaggerated depreciation of the northern spirit, and ex- 
altation of the classical, from which misjudgement Goethe in 
his youth was one of our first deliverers, though in after years 
he perhaps gave it too much encouragement, and which exer- 
cised a noxious influence upon Schiller, as we see in his Bride 
of Messina, and in the frantic Paganism of his ode on the Gods 
of Greece. But the discussion of these questions would re- 
quire a survey of the great age of German literature. My rea- 
sons for quoting the passage are, that it asserts what seems to 
me the truth with regard to the unconsciousness of Genius, and 
that it sets forth the difficulty of preserving that unconscious- 
ness in an age of intellectual cultivation, shewing at the same 
time how it has been overcome by him who of all men has done 
the most in the way of overcoming it. A mighty Genius will 
transform its conceptions back into intuitions, even as the tech- 
17* 



394 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



nical rules of music or painting are assimilated by a musician 
or a painter, and as we speak and write according to the rules 
of grammar, without ever thinking about them. But it re- 
quires a potent Genius to carry this assimilative power into the 
higher regions of thought. u. 

When a poetical spirit first awakens in a people, and seeks 
utterance in song, its utterances are almost entirely objective. 
The child's mind is well nigh absorbed for a time in the objects 
of its perceptions, and is scarcely conscious of its own existence 
as independent and apart from them ; and in like manner the 
■poGt, in the childhood of a nation, — Avhich is of far longer du- 
ration than that of an individual, because the latter is sur- 
rounded by persons in a more advanced state, who lift and 
draw him up to their level, whereas a people has to mount step 
by step, without aid, and in spite of the vis inertiae of the 
mass, — the poet, I say, in this stage, seems to lose himself in 
the objects of his song, and hardly to contemplate himself in 
his distinctness and separation. Nor does he make those dis- 
tinctions among these objects, which the refinements of more 
cultivated ages establish, often not without arbitrary fastidious- 
ness. All things are interesting to him, if they shew forth life 
and power : the more they have of life and power, the more in- 
teresting they become : but even the least things are so, as they 
are also to a child, by a kind of natural sympathy, not by an 
act of the will fixing itself reflectively upon them, according to 
the process so frequently exemplified in Wordsworth. Thus 
we see next to nothing of the poet in the Homeric poems, in 
the Niebelungen, in the ballads of early ages. To represent 
what is and has been, suffices for delight. Nothing further is 
needed. Poetry is rather a natural growth of the mind, than ii 
work of art. The umbilical chord, which connects it with its 
mother, has not yet been severed. 

In youth the objects of childish perceptions become the ob- 
jects of feelings, of desires, of passions. Self puts forth its 
horns. Consciousness wakes up out of its dreamy slumber; 
but the objects of that consciousness, which stir and excite it, 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



395 



are outward. Hence it finds vent in lyrical poetry ; but this 
lyrical poetry will be objective, in that it will be the vivid utter- 
ance of actual feelings, not a counterfeit, nor a meditative anal- 
ysis of them. 

Moreover in both these forms poetry will be essentially and 
thoroughly national. Indeed all true poetry must be so, and all 
poetry in early ages will be so of necessity. For in the early 
ages of a people all its members have a sort of generic charac- 
ter: the individuahzing features come out later, with the pro- 
gress of cultivation ; and still later is the introduction of forein 
elements ; which at once multiply varieties, and impair distinct 
individuality. But a poet is the child of his people, the first- 
born of his age, the highest representative of the national mind, 
which in him finds an utterance for its inmost secrets. The 
vivid sympathies with nature and with man, which constitute 
him a poet, must needs be excited the most powerfully, from 
his childhood upward, by those forms of outward nature and of 
human, with which he has been the most conversant ; and when 
he speaks, he will desire to speak so as to find an answer in the 
hearts of his hearers. In the ballad or epic he merely exhib- 
its the objects of their own faith to them, of their own love and 
fear and hatred and desire, their own views of man and of the 
powers above liim, their favorite legends, the very sights and 
sounds, the forms and colours, the incidents and adventures, 
they are most familiar with and most delight in. As the Ger- 
man poet has said. 

Think Yoii that all would have listened to Homer, that all would have read 
him, 

Had he not smoothed his way to the heart by persuading his reader, 
That he is just what he wishes? and do Ave not high in the palace. 
And in the chieftain's tent see the soldier exult in the Iliad? 
Wliile in the street and the market, where citizens gather together 
All far gladlier hear of the craft of the vagrant Ulysses. 
There the warrior beholdeth himself in his helmet and armour; 
Here in Ulysses the beggar perceives how his rags are ennobled. 

In like manner the lyrical poetry of early ages is the national 
expression of feeling and of passion, of love and of devotion, — 
national both in its modes and in its objects. 



396 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



This however is little more than tlie blossoms which are scat- 
tered, more or less abundantly, over a fruit-tree in spring, and 
which gleam with starry brightness amid the dark network of 
the leafless branches. As the season advances, Nature no longer 
contents herself with these fleeting manifestations of her exu- 
berant playfulness : the down on the boyish cheek gives place 
to the rougher manly beard, the smile of merriment to the se- 
date, stern aspect of thought : she strips herself of the bloom 
with which she had been toying, arrays her form in motherly 
green ; and, though she cannot repress the pleasure of still put- 
ting forth flowers here and there, her main task is now, not to 
dally with the air and sunshine, but to convert them into nour- 
ishing fruit, and living, generative seed. Feeling, passion, de- 
sire, kindhng often into fervid intensity, are the predominant 
characters of youth. In manhood, when it is really attained to, 
these are controlled and subjugated by the will. The business 
of manhood is to act. Thus the manhood of poetry is the drama. 
The continuous flow of outward events, the simple eflfusion of 
feelings venting themselves in song, will not suflice to fill the 
mind of a people, when it has found out that its proper calling 
and work is to act, to shape the world after its own forms and 
Avishes, to rule over it, and to battle incessantly with all manner 
of enemies, especially those which the will raises against itself, 
by struggling against the moral laws of the universe. 

Now the whole form, and all the conditions of dramatic po- 
etry, according to its original conception, — which is an essential 
part of its idea, — imply that it is to be addrest, more directly 
than any otlier kind of poetry, to large bodies of hearers, who 
assemble out of all classes, ftnd may therefore be regarded as 
representatives of the whole nation, and that it is to stir them 
by acting immediately on their understanding and their feelings. 
Hence the adaptation to them, which is requisite in all poetry, 
is above all indispensable to the drama ; and it belongs to the 
essence of dramatic poetry to be national. So too it has been, 
in the countries in which it has greatly flourisht, in Greece, in 
Spain, in England. In France also comedy has been so, the 
only kind which has prospered there. For as to French trage- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



397 



dy, it is a hybrid exotic, aiming mainly at a classical form, yet 
omitting the very feature which had led to the adoption of that 
form, the chorus, and substituting a conventional artificiality of 
sentiments and manners for the ideal simplicity of the Greeks. 
It was designed for the court, not for the people. 

In these latter times a new body has sprung up, to whom 
writers address themselves, that which Coleridge jeers at under 
the title of' the Heading Public. Now for many modes of au- 
thorship, for philosophy, for science, for philology and all other 
ologies, indeed for prose generally, with the exception of the 
various branches of oratory, it has ever been a necessary con- 
dition that they should be designed for readers.' With regard 
to these the danger is, that, in proportion as the studious read- 
ers are swallowed up and vanish in the mass of the unstudious, 
that which, from its speculative or learned character, ought to 
require thought and knowledge, may be debased by being popu- 
larized. The true philosopher's aim must ever be. Fit audience 
let me fold, though few. But, through the general diffusion of 
reading, a multitude of people have become more or less con- 
versant with books, and have attained to some sort of acquaint- 
ance with literature. This is the public for which our modern 
poets compose. They no longer sing ; they are no longer aoihoi 
bards : they are mere writers of verses. Instead of sounding 
a trumpet in the ears of a nation, they play on the flute before 
a select auditory. 

This is injurious to poetry in many ways. It has become 
more artificial. It no longer aims at the same broad, grand, 
overpowering effects. It is grown elegant, ingenious, refined, 
delicate, sentimental, didactic. Instead of epic poems, in which 
the heart and mind of a people roll out their waves of thought 
and feeling, to receive them back into their own bosom, we have 
poems constructed according to rules, which are not inherent 
laws, but maxims deduced by empirical abstraction; and we 
even get at length to compositions, like some of Southey's, in 
which materials are scraped together from the four quarters of 
the Avorld, and the main part of the poetry may often lie in the 
notes, — not those of the harp awakening the bard to a sympa- 



398 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



thetic flow of emotion, but of the artificer exhibiting the pro- 
cesses of his own craft. A somewhat similar change comes 
over lyric poetry. It takes to expressing Sentiment, rather than 
feeling ; though here may be a grand compensation, as we see 
eminently in Wordsworth. 

But to no kind of poetry is this revolution of the national 
mind, this migration out of the period of unconscious produc- 
tion into that of reflective composition, more hurtful than to the 
Drama. Hence, when a nation has had a great dramatic age, 
as it has been an age of intense national life, like that which 
followed the Persian wars in Greece, and the reign of our Eliz- 
abeth, so has it been anterior to the age when reflexion became 
predominant, and has been cut short thereby. Hence too in 
Germany, as the effect of the religious Schism, in which the 
new spirit did not gain the same political ascendency as in Eng- 
land, and that of the Thirty Years war, — unlike that of forein 
•wars, which unite and concentrate the energies of a people, — 
was to denationalize the nation, the period, which would else 
have been fit for the drama, past away almost barrenly ; and 
when poets of high genius began to employ themselves upon it, 
in the latter half of the last century, the true dramatic age was 
gone by, so that their works mostly bear the character of postu- 
mous, or postobits. In Goethe's dramas indeed, as in all his 
works, we find the thoughts and speculations and doubts and 
questionings, the feelings and passions, the desires and aspira- 
tions and antipathies, the restless cravings, the boastful weak- 
nesses, the self-pampering diseases of his own age, that is, of an 
age in which the elementary constituents of human nature have 
been filtered through one layer of books after another : but for 
this very reason his dramas are wanting in much that is essen- 
tial to a drama, — in action, the proper province of which is the 
outward world of Nature and man, — and in theatrical power, 
being mostly better fitted for meditative reading than for scenic 
representation. 

The special difficulty which besets the poets of these later 
days, arises from this, that they cannot follow the simple im- 
pulses of their genius, but are under the necessity of comparirg 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



399 



these every moment with the results of reflexion and analysis. 
It is not merely that the great poets of earlier times preoccupy 
the chief objects and topics of poetical interest, and thus, as has 
been argued, drive their successors into the byways and the 
outskirts of the poetical world, and corapell those who would 
excell or emulate them, to betake themselves to intellectual an- 
tics and extravagances. Whatever of truth may lie in this 
remark, is merely suj^erficial. Every age has its own peculiar 
forms of moral and intellectual life ; and Goethe has fully 
proved that an abundant store of materials for the creative 
powers of the Imagination were to be found, by those who had 
eyes to discern them, in what might have been deemed an utter- 
ly prosaic age. The difficulty to which I am referring, is that 
which he himself has so happily exprest, when, in speaking of 
some comparisons that had been instituted between himself and 
Shakspeare, he said : Shcihspeare ahoays hits the right nail on 
the head at once ; hut I have to stop and think which is the right 
nail, before I hit. 

It is true, that from the very first certain rules and maxims 
of art, pertaining to its outward forms, became gradually estab- 
lisht, with which the poet is in a manner bound to comply, even 
as he is with the rules of metre. But such rules, as I have already 
said, are readily assimilated and incorporated by the Imagina- 
tion, which recognizes its own types and processes in them, and 
grows in time to conform to them without thinking of them. 
This however is far more difficult, when analysis and reflexion 
have dug down to the deeper principles of poetry, and it yet 
behoves us to shape our works according to those principles, 
without any conscious reference, conforming to them as it were 
instinctively. That this can be done, we see in Goethe ; and 
the observations of Schiller quoted above are an attempt to 
explain the process. An instance too of the manner in which 
the Imagination works according to secret laws, without being 
distinctly conscious of them, is affiDrded by Goethe's answer, 
when Schiller objected to the conclusion of his beautiful Idyl, 
Alexis and Dora. After giving one reason for it founded on 
the workings of nature, and another on the principles of art, 

i 



400 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



which reasons, it is plain, he had been quite unconscious of, 
though he had acted under their influence, until he was called 
upon for an explanation, he adds : " Thus much in justification 
of the inexplicable instinct by which such things are produced.'* 
For an example of the opposite errour, I might refer to what 
was said some twenty pages back about the manner in which 
Fate has been introduced in a number of recent German trage- 
dies, much as though, instead of the invisible laws of attraction, 
we were called to gaze on a planetary system kept in motion by 
myriads of ropes and pullies. A like illustration might be 
drawn from the prominency often given to the diversities of 
national character ; with regard to which point reflexion of late 
years has attained to correcter views, and, in so doing, as is for 
ever the case, has justified the perceptions of early ages. Among 
the results from the decay of the Imagination, and the exclusive 
predominance of the practical Understanding, one was the losing 
sight of the peculiarities of individual and of national charac- 
ter. The abstract generalization, man, compounded according 
to prescription of such and such virtues, or of such and such 
vices, was substituted for the living person, whose features 
receive their tone and expression from the central principle of 
his individuality. Hence our serious poetry hardly produced a 
character from the time of Milton to that of Walter Scott. On 
the other hand, among the ideas after which the foremost minds 
of the last hundred years have been striving, is that of individ- 
uality, and, as coordinate therewith, of nationality, not indeed in 
its older forms, as cut off from the grand unity of mankind, but 
as a living component part of it. That this idea, though it had 
not been philosophically enunciated, preexisted in the poetical 
Imagination, we see in Shakspeare, especially in his Roman 
plays. In Shakspeare however this nationality is represented 
rightly, as determining and moulding the character, but not as 
talking of itself, not as being aware that it is anything else than 
an essential part of the order of Nature. Coriolanus is a Ro- 
man ; but he is not for ever telling us so. Rome is in his 
heart : if you were to anatomize him, you would find it niixt 
with his lifeblood, and pervading every vein : but it does not flit 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



401 



about the tip of his tongue. Indeed so far is the declaration of 
what one is from being necessary to the reaUty of one's being, 
that it is more like the sting of those insects which die on the 
wound they inflict. 

To turn to an instance of an opposite kind : Muellner, a Ger- 
man playwright, who gained great celebrity in his own country 
about thirty years ago, and some of whose works were lauded 
in England, — who moreover really had certain talents for the 
stage, especially that of producing theatrical elfect, having him- 
self been in the habit of acting at private theatres, thereby 
making up in a measure for the want of the advantage possest 
by the Greek dramatists and by Shakspeare, of studying their 
art practically, as well as theoretically, — tried in like manner 
to make up for his want of creative Imagination, by dressing 
his tragedies according to the new^est, most fashionable receits 
of dramatic cookery. His art was ostentare artem, through fear 
lest we might not discover it without. There is no under- 
current in his writings, no secret w^orking of passion : every 
vein and nerve and muscle is laid bare, as in an anatomy, and 
accompanied with a comment on its peculiar excellences. His 
personages are never content with being what they are, and 
acting accordingly : they are continually telling you what they 
are ; and their morbid self-consciousness preys upon them so, 
that they (fan hardly talk or think of anything except their own 
prodigious selves. 

Thus in his tragedy, called Guilt, which turns in great part 
upon the contrast betw^een the Norwegian character and the 
Spanish, a Norwegian maiden comes in, saying, I am a Norwe- 
gian maiden; and Norwegian maidens are very wonderful 
creatures. A Spanish woman exclaims, / am a Spanish wo- 
man ; and Spanish women are very wonderful creatures. Even 
a boy is stript of his blessed privilege of unconscious innocence, 
and tells us how unconscious and innocent he is. To crown the 
whole, the hero enters, and says : / am the most ivonderfid be- 
ing of all: for I am a Norwegian; and Norwegians are won- 
derful heings : and I am also a Spaniard; and Spaniards also 
are wonderful beings. The North and the South have commit- 

z 



402 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



ted adultery within me. Out on them J there 's death in their 
kiss. I am a riddle to myself. Pole and Pole unite in me. I 
combine Jire and water, earth and heaven, God and the devil 
The last sentences are translated literally from the original. 
They were meant to be very grand, and probably excited 
shouts of applause : yet they are a piece of turgid falsetto. 

In a certain sense indeed there is a truth in these lines, so 
far as they set forth the inherent discords of our nature, a truth 
to which all history bears witness, and which comes out more 
forcibly at times and in characters of demoniacal power. But 
it is as contrary to nature for a man to anatomize his heart and 
soul thus, as it would be to make him dissect his own body. 
The blunder lies in representing a person as speaking of him- 
self in the same way in which a dispassionate observer might 
speak of him. It is much as if one were to versify the ana- 
lytical and rhetorical accounts, which critics have given of 
Shakspeare's characters, and then to put them into the mouths 
of Macbeth, Othello, Lear, nay, of Juliet, Imogen, Ophelia, and 
even of the child, Arthur. 

Yet in Hamlet himself, that personification of human nature 
brooding over its own weaknesses and corruptions, that only 
philosopher, with one exception, whom Poetry has been able to 
create, how different are all the reflexions ! which moreover 
come forward mainly in his sohloquies; whereas Muellner's 
hero raves out his self-analysis in the ears of another, a woman, 
his own sister, the very sight of whom should have made him 
fold up the poisoned leaves of his heart. The individual, per- 
sonal application of Hamlet's reflexions is either swallowed up 
in the general confession of the frailty of human nature; or 
else they are the self-reproaches and self-stimulants of irreso- 
lute weakness, the foam which the sea leaves behind on the 
sands, when it sinks back into its own abysmal depths, and the 
dissonant muttering of the waves, that have been vainly lashing 
an immovable rock. So that they arise naturally, and almost 
necessarily, out of his situation, out of the conflict with the 
pressure of events, which he shrinks from encountering, and 
thus are altogether different from the practice of modem writ- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



403 



ers, who make a man stand up in cold blood, and recite a dis- 
sertation upon liimself, carried on, with the interposition of 
divers similar dissertations recited bj others, through the 
course of five acts. 

To make the difference more conspicuous, it would be in- 
structive to see a soliloquy for Hamlet written by one of these 
modern playwrights. How thickly would it be deckt out with 
all manner of floscules ! for the same reason for which a 
tragedy-queen wears many more diamonds than a real one. 
The following might serve as a sample. 

I am a prince. A prince a sceptre bears. 
Sceptres are golden. Gold is flexible. 
Therefore am I as flexible as gold. 

'T is strange ! 'T is passing strange ! I 'm a strange being ! 

None e'er was stranger. I was born in Denmark; 

In Wittenberg I studied. Wittenberg ! 

Why Wittenberg is set amid the sands 

Of Northern Gei-many. So stood PalmjTa 

Amid the sands of Syria. Sand ! Sand ! Sand ! 

I wonder how 't was possible for Sand 

To murder Kotzebue, Sand flies round and roimd 

And every puff" of wind will change its form. 

Thus every puff" of wind will change my mind. 

Ay, that vile sand I breathed at Wittenberg 

Has ruslit into my soul ; and there it whirls 

And whirls about, just like the foam that flies 

From water-wheels. It almost chokes me up. 

So did it Babylon. That baby loon ! 

To build his city in the midst of sands ! 

But that was in the babyhood of man. 

Now we are older grown, and wiser too. 

I live in Copenhagen by the sea. 

That is the home of every Dane. The sea ! 

But that too waves and wavers. So do I. 

I am the sea. But I am golden too, 

And sandy too. what a marvel 's this ! 

I am a golden, sandy sea. Prodigious ! 

Ay, ay! There are more things in heaven and earth, 

Than are dreamt of in our Philosophy. 

Nor are these aberrations and extravagances, these prepos- 
terous inversions of the processes of the Imagination, trying to 
educe the concrete out of a medley of abstractions, confined to 
Germany. They may be commoner there, because the German 



404 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



mind has been busier in pliilosophical and estlietical specula- 
tions : and when they are found in our own poetry, there may 
be more of genuine poetical substance to sustain them. But I 
have cited some passages in which the reflective spirit has 
operated injuriously on Wordsworth ; and, if Ave look into Lord 
Byron's works, we shall not have to go far before we light on 
examples of similar errours. For he is eminently the prince of 
egotists ; and, instead of representing characters, he describes 
them, by versifying his own reflexions and meditations about 
them. It has been asserted indeed by a celebrated critic, " that 
Lord Byron's genius is essentially dramatic." But this asser- 
tion merely illustrates the danger of meddling Avith hard words. 
For no poet, not even Wordsworth or Milton, Avas more unfit- 
ted by the character of his mind for genuine dramatic composi- 
tion. He can lioAvever AA'rite fine, sounding lines in abundance, 
where self-exaltation assumes the language of self-reproach, and 
a man magnifies himself by speaking Avith bitter scorn of all 
things. Such are the folloAving from the ooening soliloquy in 
Manfred. 

Philosophy, and science, and the springs 

Of Avonder, and the wisdom of the world, 

I have essayed; and in my mind there is 

A power to make these subject to itself: 

But they avail not. I have done men good : 

And I have met with good even among men: 

But this availed not. I have had my foes ; 

And none have baffled, many fallen before me: 

But this availed not. Good or evil, life, 

Powers, passions, all I see in other beings, 

Have been to me as rain unto the sands, 

Since that all-nameless houi*. I have no dread, 

And feel the curse to have no natural fear. 

Nor fluttering throb, that beats with hopes or wishes, 

Or lurking love of something on the earth. 

Or look at this speech in Manfred's conversation with the 
Abbot : 

My nature was averse from life. 
And yet not cruel ; for I would not make, 
But find a desolation: — like the wind. 
The red-hot breath of the most lone simoom, 
Which dwells but in the desert, and sweeps o'er 
' The barren sands which bear no shrubs to blast, 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



405 



And revels o'er their wild and arid waves, 
And seeketh not, so that it is not sought, 
But being met is deadly; such hath been 
The course of my existence. 

Now if in these lines lie and Ms be substituted for /and my^ 
and they be read as a description of some third person, they may 
perhaps be grand, as the author meant that they should be. 
But at present they are altogether false, and therefore unpoeti- 
cal. Indeed it may be laid down as an axiom, that, whenever 
the personal pronouns can be interchanged in any passage 
without injury to the poetry, the poetry must be spurious. For 
no human being ever thought or spoke of himself, as a third 
person would describe him. Yet, such is the intelligence shewn 
in our ordinary criticism, these very passages have been cited 
as examples of Lord Byron's dramatic genius. tJ. 



There is a profound knowledge of human nature in those 
lines which Shelley puts into Orsino's mouth, in tlie Cenci (Act 
IT. Sc. II.). 

It is a trick of this same family 

To analyse their own and other minds. 

Such self-anatomy shall teach the will 

Dangerous secrets: for it tempts our powers, 

Knowing what must be thought, and may be done, 

Into the depth of darkest purposes. 

This is not at variance with what has been said in these last 
pages, but on the contrary confirms it. Self-anatomy is not an 
impossible act. It belongs however to a morbid state. When 
in health, we do not feel our own feelings, any more than we 
feel our limbs, or see our eyes, but their objects, the objects on 
which they were designed to act. On the other hand, when any 
part of the body becomes disordered, we feel it, the more so, 
the more violent the disorder is. The same thing happens in 
an unhealthy state of heart and mind, when the living commun- 
ion with their objects is blockt up and cut off, and the blood is 
thrown back upon the heart, and our sight is filled with delusive 
spectra. If the Will gives itself up to work evil, the Conscience 
ever and anon lifts up its reproachful voice, and smites with its 



406 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



avenging sting ; whereupon the Will commands the Under- 
standing to lull or stifle the Conscience with its sophistries, and 
to prove that our moral nature is a mere delusion. Hence 
Shakspeare has made his worst characters, Edmund, lago, 
Kichard, all more or less self-reflective. Even in such charac- 
ters however, it is necessary to track the footsteps of Nature 
with the utmost care, in order to avoid substituting a shameless, 
fiendish profession of wickedness, for the jugglings whereby the 
remaining shreds of our moral being would fain justify or pal- 
liate its aberrations. Evil, he thou my Good! is a cry that 
could never have come from human lips. They always modify 
and mitigate it into Evil, thou art my Good. Thus they shake 
off the responsibility of making it so, and impute the sin of their 
will to their nature or their circumstances. Yet in nothing have 
the writers of spurious tragedies oftener gone wrong, than in 
their way of making their villains proclaim and boast of their 
villainy. Even poets of considerable dramatic genius have at 
times erred grievously in this respect, especially during the im- 
maturity of their genius : witness the soliloquies of Francis 
Moor in Schiller's Titanic first-birth. Slow too and reluctant 
as I am to think that anything can be erroneous in Shakspeare, 
whom Nature had wedded, so to say, for better, for worse, and 
whom she admitted into all the hidden recesses of her heart, 
still I cannot help thinking that even he, notwithstanding the 
firrli grasp with which he is wont to hold the reins of his solar 
chariot, as it circles the world, beholding and bringing out every 
form of life in it, has somewhat exaggerated the diabolical 
element in the soliloquies of Richard the Third. I refer espe- 
cially to those terrific lines just after the murder of Henry the 
Sixth. 

DoAvn, down, to hell, and say, I sent thee thither, 
/, that have neither pity ^ love, nor fear. 
Indeed 'tis true, that Henry told me of: 
For I have often heard ray mother say, 
I came into the world with my legs forward. 
Had I not reason, think ye, to make haste, 
And seek their ruin that usurpt our right ? 
The midwife wondered, and the women cried, 
0, Jesus bless us ! he is born with teeth. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



407 



And so I was ; which plainly signijied, 

That I should snarly and bite, and j^lay the dog. 

Then, since the heavens have shaped my body so, 

Let hell make croolct my mind, to answer it. 

I had no father; I am like no father: 

I have no brother ; I am like no brother : 

And this word, Love, which greybeards call divine, 

Be resident in men like one another, 

And not in me : I am myself alone. 

Of a like character are those lines in the opening soliloquy 
of the play called by his name : 

But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks, 

Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass, — 

I that am curtailed of this fair proportion. 

Cheated of feature by dissembling Nature, 

Deformed, unfinisht, sent before my time 

Into this breathing world, scarce half made up. 

And that so lamely and unfashionably, 

That dogs bark at me, as I halt by them ; — 

Why I, in this weak piping time of peace, 

Have no delight to pass away the time. 

Unless to spy my shadow in the sun. 

And descant on my own deformity. 

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover, 

To entertain these fair, well-spoken days, 

I am determined to prove a villain, 

And hate the idle pleasures of these days. 

How different is this bold avowal of audacious, reckless wick- 
edness, from Edmund's self-justification ! 

Why bastard ? wherefore base ? 
When my dimensions are as well compact. 
My mind as generous, and my shape as true. 
As honest madam's issue. 

How different too is lago's speech ! 

And what 's he then, that says, I play the villain ? 
When this advice is free I give, and honest, 
Probable to thinking, and indeed the course 
To win the Moor again. For 'tis most easy 
The inclining Desdemona to subdue 
In any honest suit : she 's famed as fruitful 
As the free elements. And then for her 
To win the Moor, — were 't to renounce his baptism, 
All seals and symbols of redeemed sin, — 



408 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



His soul is so enfettered to her love, 

That she may make, unmake, do what she list, 

Even as her appetite shall play the god 

With his weak function. How am I then a villain, 

To counsel Cassia to this parallel course, 

Directly to his good ? 

After which inimitable bitterness of mockery at all his vic- 
tims, and at Reason itself, how awfully does that sudden flash 
of conscience rend asunder and consume the whole network of 
sophistry ! 

Divinity of hell ! 
When devils Avill their blackest sins put on, 
They do suggest at first with heavenly shows, 
As I do now. 

If we compare these speeches with Richard's, and in like 
manner if we compare the way in which lago's plot is first 
sown, and springs up and gradually grows and ripens in his 
brain, with Richard's downright enunciation of his projected 
series of crimes from the first, we may discern the contrast be- 
tween the youth and the mature manhood of the mightiest 
intellect that ever lived upon earth, a contrast almost equally 
observable in the difference between the diction and metre of 
the two plays, and not unlike that between a great river rush- 
ing along turbidly in spring, bearing the freshly melted snows 
from Alpine mountains, with flakes of light scattered here and 
there over its surface, and the same river, when its waters have 
subsided into their autumnal tranquillity," and compose a vast 
mirror for the whole landscape around them, and for the sun 
and stars and sky and clouds overhead. 

It is true, Shakspeare's youth was Herculean, was the youth 
of one who might have strangled the serpents in his cradle. 
There are several things in Richard's position, which justify a 
great difference in the representation of his inward being. His 
rank and station pampered a more audacious will. The civil 
wars had familiarized him with crimes of lawless violence, and 
with the wildest revolutions of fortune. Above all, his deform- 
ity, — which Shakspeare received from a tradition he did not 
think of questioning, and which he purposely brings forward so 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



409 



prominently in both the speeches quoted above, — seemed to 
separate and cut him off from sympathy and communion with 
his kind, and to be a plea for thinking that, as he was a monster 
in body, he might also be a monster in heart and conduct. In 
fact it is a common result of a natural malformation to awaken 
and irritate a morbid self-consciousness, by making a person 
continually and painfully sensible of his inferiority to his fel- 
lows : and this was doubtless a main agent in perverting Lord 
Byron's character. Still I cannot but think that Shakspearo 
would have made a somewhat different use even of this motive, 
if he had rewritten the play, like King John, in the maturity of 
his intellect. Would not Richard then, like Edmund and lago, 
have palliated and excused his crimes to himself, and sophisti- 
cated and played tricks with his conscience ! "Would he not 
have denied and avowed his wickedness, almost with the same 
breath ? and made the ever-waxing darkness of his purposes, 
like that of night, at once conceal and betray their hideous enor- 
mity ? At all events, since the justifications that may be alledged 
lor Richard's bolder avowals of his wickedness, result from the 
peculiar idiosyncrasy of his position taken along with his physi- 
cal frame, he is a most unsafe model for other poets to follow, 
though a very tempting one, especially to young poets, many of 
whom are glad to vent their feelings of the discord between 
their ardent fancies and the actual state of the world, in railing 
at human nature, and embodying its evils in some incarnate 
fiend. Besides the main difficulties of dramatic poetry are 
smoothed down, when a writer can make his characters tell us 
how good and how bad he designs them to be. u. 

Some readers, who might otherwise incline to acknowledge 
the truth of the foregoing observations, may perhaps be per- 
plext by the thought, that the tenour of them seems scarcely 
consistent with that Christian principle, w^hich makes self- 
examination a part of our duty. To this scruple I might 
reply, that corruptio optimi Jit pessima ; for this involves the 
true explanation of the difficulty. But the solution needs to 
be brought out more plainly. 

18 



410 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



Now it is quite true that one of the main eflfects produced 
by Christianity on our nature has been to call forth our con- 
science, and, along therewith, our self-consciousness, into far 
greater distinctness ; which has gone on increasing with the 
progress of Christian thought. This however is only as the 
Law called forth the knowledge of sin. The Law called forth 
the knowledge of the sinfulness of the outward act, with the 
purpose of making us turn away from it, even in thought, to 
its opposite. The Gospel, completing the work of the Law, 
has called forth the knowledge of the sinfulness of our inward 
nature ; not however to the end that we should brood over the 
contemplation of that sinfulness, — far less that we should 
resolve to abide and advance therein ; but to the end that we 
should rise out of it, and turn away from it, to the Redemption 
which has been wrought for us. To have aroused the con- 
sciousness of sin, without assuaging it by the glad tidings of 
Redemption, would have been to issue a sentence of madness 
against the whole human race. One cry of despair would 
have burst from every heart, as it was lasht by the stings of 
the Furies : wretched man that I am, who will deliver me 
from this hody of death ? And the echo from all the hollow 
caverns of earth and heaven and hell would only have an- 
swered. Who ? 

In truth, even in this form of self-consciousness, there is 
often a great deal of morbid exaggeration, of unhealthy, mis- 
chievous poring over and prying into the movements of our 
hearts and minds ; which in the Romish Church has been stim- 
ulated feverishly by the deleterious practices of the confession- 
al, and which taints many of the very best Romish devotional 
works. A vapid counterpart of this is also to be found in our 
modern sentimental religion. In the Apostles, on the other 
hand, there is nothing of the sort. Their life is hid Avith Christ 
in God. Their hearts and minds are filled with the thought 
and the love of Him who had redeemed them, and in whom 
they had found their true life, and with the work which they 
were to do in His service, for His glory, for the sj^reading of 
His kingdom. This too was one of the greatest and most 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



411 



blessed among the truths Avhich Luther was especially ordained 
to reproclaim, — that we are not to spend our days in watching 
our own vices, in gazing at our own sins, in stirring and raking 
up all the mud of our past lives ; but to lift our thoughts from 
our own corrupt nature to Plim who put on that nature in order 
to deliver it from its corruption, and to fix our contemplations 
and our affections on Him who came to clothe us in His perfect 
righteousness, and through whom and in whom, if we are united 
to Him by a living faith, we too become righteous. Thus, like 
the Apostle, are we to forget that which is behind, and to keep 
our eyes bent on the prize of our high calling, to which we are 
to press onward, and which we may attain, in Christ Jesus. 

I cannot enter here into the questions, how far and what 
kinds of self-examination are necessary as remedial, medicinal 
measures, in consequence of our being already in so diseased 
a condition. These are questions of ascetic discipline, the 
answers to which will vary according to the exigences of each 
particular case, even as do the remedies prescribed by a wise 
physician for bodily ailments. I merely wisht to shew that, in 
the Christian view of man, no less than in the natural, the 
healthy, normal state is not the subjective, but the objective, that 
in which, losing his own individual, insulated life, he finds it 
again in Christ, that in which he does not make himself the 
object of his contemplation and action, but directs them both 
steadily and continually toward the will and the glory of God. 

Of course the actual changes which have thus been wrought 
in human nature by the operation of Christianity, and which are 
not confined to its religious aspect, but pervade all its move- 
ments, will justify and necessitate a corresponding difference in 
the poetical representations of human characters. Still the poet 
will have to keep watch against excesses and aberrations in this 
respect ; and this has not been done with sufficient vigilance, it 
seems to me, in the passages which I have found fault with. 

u. 



The general opinion on the worth of an imaginative work 
may ultimately be right : immediately it is likely to be wrong ; 



412 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



and this likelihood increases in proportion to the creative power 
manifested in it. The whole history of literature drives us to 
this conclusion. There have indeed been cases in which the 
calm judgement of posterity has confirmed the verdict pro- 
nounced by contemporaries : but, though the results have been 
the same, the way of arriving at them was different. What 
Jonson said of him, in whom, above all other men, the spirit of 
Poetry became incarnate, is true of Poetry itself : " it is not of 
an age, but for all time." In the very act of becoming an im- 
manent power in the life of the world, it advances, as our com- 
mon phrases imply, beyond its own age, and rises above it. 
Now, from the nature of man, there are always aspirations and 
yearnings in him, which soar beyond the ken of his understand- 
ing, and depths of thought and feeling, which strike down below 
it : wherefore no age has ever been able to comprehend itself, 
even what it is, much less what it is striving after and tending 
to. A Thucydides or a Burke may discern some of the princi- 
ples which are working and seething, and may guess at the con- 
sequences which are to be evolved out of them. But they who 
draw the car of Destiny cannot look back upon her : they are 
impelled onward and ever blindly onward by the throng press- 
ing at their heels. Far less can any age comprehend what is 
beyond it and above it. 

Besides much of the beauty in every great work of art must 
be latent. Like the Argive seer, ov 8ok€Iv apio-Tov, aXX' eluai 
GeXci. Such a work will be profound ; and few can sound depth. 
It will be sublime ; and few can scan highth. It will have a 
soul in it ; and few eyes can pierce through the body. Thus the 
Greek epigram on the History of Thucydides, — 

'Q (jiiXos, el croffios ft, Aa/36 /x' es X^P^^ ' ne(f)VKas 

N^i's Movadcov, pi-^ov a pr] voeeis. 
lEifii yap ov navTeacri ^aros • iravpoi 5' aydcravTO, — 

may be regarded as more or less appropriate to every great 
work of art. So that Orator Puff's blunder, in spending as 
many words on a riband as a Raphael, did not lie solely in the 
superior merits of the latter, but also in the greater facility with 



GUESSES AT TRUTH 



413 



whicli all the merits of the former were sure to be discerned. 
At the Exhibition of the King's pictures last year (in 182G), 
Grenet's Church, with its mere mechanical dexterity of j)erspec- 
tive, had more admirers, ten to one, than any of Rembrandt's 
wonderful masterpieces, more, fifty to one, than Venusti's picture 
of the Saviour at the foot of the Cross : for you will find fifty 
who will be delighted with an ingenious artifice, sooner than one 
who can understand art. Hence there is little surprising in 
being told that Sophocles was not so great a favorite on the 
Athenian stage as Euripides : what surprises me far more is, 
that any audience should ever have been found capable of de- 
riving pleasure from the severe grandeur and chaste beauty 
of Sophocles. Nor is it surprising that Jonson and Fletcher 
should have been more admired than Shakspeare : the contrary 
would be surprising. Thus too, Avhen one is told that Schiller 
must be a greater poet than Goethe, because he is more popular 
in Germany, one may reply, that, were he less popular, one 
might perhaps be readier to suppose that there may be some- 
thing more in him, than what thrusts itself so prominently on 
the public view. 

We are deaf, it is said, to the music of the spheres, owing to 
the narrowness and dimness and dulness of our auditory organs. 
So is it with what is grandest and loveliest in poetry. Few 
admire it, because few have perceptions capacious and quick 
and strong enough to feel it. Lessing has said (vol. xxvi. p. 
36) : " The true judges of poetry are at all times, in all coun- 
tries, quite as rare as true poets themselves are." Thus among 
my own friends, although I feel pride in reckoning up many of 
surpassing intellectual powers, I can hardly bethink myself 
of more than one possessing that calmness of contemplative 
thought, that insight into the principles and laws of the 
Imagination, that familiarity with the forms under which in 
various ages it has manifested itself, that happy temperature 
of activity not too restless or vehement, with a passiveness 
ready to receive the exact stamp and impression which the 
poet purpost to produce, and the other qualities requisite to 



414 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



fit a person for pronouncing intelligently and justly on ques- 
tions of taste.* 

How then do great works ever become popular ? 

In the strict sense they very seldom do. They never can be 
rightly appreciated by the bulk of mankind, because they can 
never be fully understood by them. No author, I have remarkt 
before, has been more inadequately understood than Shakspeare. 
But who, among the authors that make or mark a great epoch 
in the history of thought, imaginative or reflective, has fared 
better ? Has Plato ? or Sophocles ? or Dante ? or Bacon ? or 
Behmen? or Leibnitz? or Kant? Their names have indeed 
been extolled ; but for the chief part of those who have extolled 
them, they might as well have written in an unknown tongue. 
Look only at Homer, whom one might deem of all poets the 
most easily intelligible. Yet how the Greek critics misunder- 
stood him ! who found everything in him except a poet. How 
must Virgil have misunderstood him, when he conceived him- 
self to be writing a poem like the Iliad ! How must those per- 
sons have misunderstood him, who have pretended to draw 
certain irrefragable laws of epic poetry from his works ! laws 
which are as applicable to them, as the rules of carpet-making 
are to the side of a hill in its vernal glory. How must Cowper 
have misunderstood him, w^hen he congealed him ! and Pope, 
when he bottled up his streaming waters in couplets, and col- 
oured them till they were as gaudy as a druggist's window! 
Here, as in numberless instances, we see how, as Goethe says 
so truly, every reader 

Eeads himself out of the book that he reads, nay, has he a strong mind, 
Reads himself into the book, and amalgams his thoughts with the author's. 

Nevertheless in the course of time the judgement of the 
intelligent few determines the judgement of the unintelligent 
many. Public opinion flows through the present as through a 
marsh, scattering itself in a multitude of little brooks, taking any 

* This was written in 1826. Since then the opinion here exprest has been 
justified by the Essay on the Irony of Sophocles, which has been termed the 
most exquisite piece of criticism in the English language. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



41^ 



casual direction, and often stagnating sleepily ; until the more 
vigorous and active have gone before, and cut and embankt a 
channel, along which it may follow them. Thus on the main it 
has one voice for the past ; and that voice is the voice of the 
judicious : but it has an endless consort, or rather dissonance of 
voices for the present ; and amid a mob the wisest are not likely 
to be the loudest. For they have the happy feeling that Time 
is their ally ; and they know that hurrying impedes, oftener 
than it accelerates. At length however, when people are 
persuaded that they ought to like a book, they are not slow in 
finding out something to like in it. Our perceptions are trac- 
table and ductile enough, if we earnestly desire that they should 
be so. u. 



Sophocles is the summit of Greek art. But one must have 
scaled many a steep, before one can estimate his highth. It is 
owing to his classical perfection, that he has generally been the 
least admired of the great ancient poets : for little of his beauty 
is discernible by a mind that is not deeply principled and im- 
bued with the spirit of antiquity. The overpowering grandeur 
of Eschylus has more of that which bursts through every con- 
ventional barrier, and rushes at once to the innermost heart of 
man. Homer Hved before the Greeks were cut off so abruptly 
from other nations, and their peculiar qualities were brought 
out, in part through the influences of their country, which 
tended to break them up into small states, and thus gave a po- 
litical importance to each individual citizen, — in part through 
the political institutions which sprang out of these causes, and 
naturally became more democratical, — in part through the 
workings, moral and intellectual, of Commerce, and of that 
freedom which all these circumstances combined to foster. 
Hence his national peculiarities are not so definitely markt. In 
many respects he nearly resembles those bards in other coun- 
tries, who have lived in a like state of society. Therefore, as 
a child is always at home wherever he may chance to be, so is 
Homer in all countries ; and thus on the whole he perhaps is 
the ancient poet who has found the most favour with the mod- 



416 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



ems, grossly as, we have just seen, even he has often been mis- 
understood. Next to him in popularity, if I mistake not, come 
Euripides and Ovid ; who have been fondled in consequence of 
their being infected with several modern epidemic vices of style. 
They have nothing spiritual, nothing ideal, nothing mysterious. 
All that is valuable in them is spread out on the surface, often 
thinly as gold leaf. They are full of glittering points. Some 
of their gems are ■ true ; and few persons have eyes to distin- 
guish the false. They have great rhetorical pathos ; and in 
poetry as in life clamorous importunity will awaken more gen- 
eral sympathy than silent distress. They are skilful in giving 
characteristic touches, rather than in representing characters ; 
and the former please everybody, while it requires a consider- 
able reach of imagination to apprehend and estimate the latter. 
In fine they are immoral, and talk morality. ij. 

"When a man says he sees nothing in a book, he very often 
means that he does not see himself in it : which, if it is not a 
comedy or a satire, is likely enough. 

What a person praises is perhaps a surer standard, even than 
what he condemns, of his character, information, and abilities. 
No wonder then that in this prudent country most people are 
so shy of praising anything. 

Most painters have painted themselves. • So have most 
poets ; not so palpably indeed and confessedly, but still more 
assiduously. Some have done nothing else. u. 

Many persons carry about their characters in their hands : 
not a few under their feet. r. 



What a lucky fellow he would be, who could invent a beau- 
tifying glass ! How customers would rush to him ! A royal 
funeral would be nothing to it. Nobody would stay away, ex- 
cept the two extremes, those who were satisfied with themselve- 
through their vanity, and those who were contented in theii 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



417 



humility. At present one is forced to take up with one's 
eyes ; and they, spiteful creatures, wont always beautify quite 
enough. u. 

Everybody has his own theatre, in which he is manager, ac- 
tor, prompter, playwright, sceneshifter, boxkeeper, doorkeeper, 
all in one, and audience into the bargain. u. 



A great talker ought to be affable. Else how can he look to 
find others so ? Yet his besetting temptation is to speak, rather 
than to hear. u. 

C'est un grand malheur qu'on ne pent se battre qu'en com- 
battant. u. 



Nothing is accounted so proper in England as property. 
En France le propre est la proprete. u. 



I have mentioned individuality of character above (p. 105) 
among the distinctive qualities of the English. Not however 
that it is peculiarly ours, but common to us with the other na- 
tions of the Teutonic race, between w^hom and those nations in 
whose character, as in their language, the Latin blood is pre- 
dominant, there is a remarkable contrast in this respect. Lan- 
der, having resided many years among the latter, could not fail 
to notice this. " I have often observed more variety (he makes 
Puntomichino say) in a single English household, than I be- 
Heve to exist in all Italy." Solger (Brief wechsel, p. 82) has a 
hke remark with reference to the French : " A certain general 
outward culture makes them all know how to keep in their 
station, each doing just as his neighbours do; so that one seldom 
meets among them with that interesting and instructive origi- 
nality, which in other nations is so often found in the lower 
orders. In France all classes have much the same sort of edu- 
cation, a superficial one enough, it is true ; but hence even the 
meanest are able to hold up their heads." 

Talk to a dozen Englishmen on any subject : there will be 

18 * AA 



418 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



something peculiar and characteristic in the remarks of each. 
Talk to a dozen Frenchmen : they will all make the very same 
remark, and almost in the same words. Nor is this merely a 
delusive appearance, occasioned by a strangex''s inattention to the 
minuter shades of difference, as in a flock of sheep an inexperi- 
enced eye will not discern one from another. It is that the ge- 
neric and specific qualities are proportionably stronger in them, 
that they all tread in the same sheeptrack, that they all follow 
their noses, and that their noses, like those of cattle when a storm 
is coming on, all point the same way. A traveler cannot go far 
in the country, but something will be said about passports. I 
have heard scores of people talk of them at different times. 
Of course they all thought them excellent things : this belongs 
to their national vanity. AVhat surprised me was, that they 
every one thought them excellent things for the self-same 
reason, — because they prevent thieves and murderers from 
escaping ... a reason learnt by rote, concerning which they 
had never thought of asking whether such was indeed the fact. 

Let me relate another instance in point. I happened to be 
in Paris at the time of the great eclipse in 1820, and was 
watching it from the gardens of the Tuileries. Several voices, 
out of a knot of persons near me, cried out one after the other, 
Ah, comme c'est drole ! Regardez, comme c'est drole. My own 
feelings not being exactly in this key, I walkt away, but in 
vain. Go whither I would, the same sounds haunted me. Old 
men and children, young men and maidens, all joined in the 
same cuckoo cry : C'est hien drole ! Megardez, comme c'est 
drole. Ah, comme c'est drole. Paris had tongues enougli ; for 
these are never scarce there. But it seemed only to have a 
single mind: and this mind, even under the aspect of that 
portent which " perplexes nations," could not contain or give 
utterance to more than one thought or feeling, that what they 
saw was hien drole. u. 



The monotonousness of French versification is only a type 
of that which pervades the national character, and herewith, of 
necessity, the representative and exponent of that character. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



419 



their literature, since the age of Louis the Fourteenth. But 
this ready suppression, or rather imperfect development, of 
those features which constitute individuality of character, is 
common, as I remarkt before, more or less to all the nations of 
the Latin stock : and it is scarcely less noticeable in the Ro- 
mans, than in the rest. Indeed this is one main difference, to 
which most of the others are referable, between the literature 
of the Greeks and that of the Romans. Hence, for instance, 
the Greeks, like ourselves and the Germans, had dramatic 
poetry, the essence of which lies in the revelation of the inner 
man ; whereas the Roman drama, at least in its higher depart- 
ments, was an alien growth. Moreover in Greek literature 
every author is himself, and has distinctive qualities whereby 
you may recognize him. But every Roman writer, as Frederic 
Schlegel has justly observed, " is in the first place a Roman, 
and next a Roman of a particular age." That portion of him 
which is peculiarly his own, is ever the least. Pars minima 
ipse sui. You may find page after page in Tacitus and Seneca 
and the elder Pliny, which, but for the difference of subject, 
might have been composed by any one of the three : and if 
Lucan had not written in verse, the trio might have been a 
quartett. u. 

The Romans had no love of Beauty, like the Greeks. They 
held no communion with Nature, like the Germans. Their one 
idea was Rome, not ancient, fabulous, poetical Rome, but Rome 
warring and conquering, and orbis terrarum domina. S. P. Q. 
R. is inscribed on almost every page of their literature. With 
the Greeks all forein nations were /3ap/3apoi, outcasts from the 
precincts of the Muses. To the Roman every stranger was a 
hostis, until he became a slave. Only compare the Olympic 
with the gladiatorial games. The object of the former was to 
do homage to Nature, and to exalt and glorify her excellent 
j gifts ; that of the latter to appease the thirst for blood, when it 
' was no longer quencht in the blood of foes. None but a Greek 
was deemed worthy of being admitted to the first : but a Roman 
would have thought himself degraded by a mimic combat, in 



420 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



which the victory lay rather with the animal, than vnth. the 
intellectual part of man. He left such sport to his jesters, 
slaves, and wild beasts. To him a triumph was the ideal 
and sum total of happmess: and verily it was something 
grand. 

Milton has been compared to Raphael. He is much more 
like Michaelangelo. Michaelangelo is the painter of the Old 
Testament, Raphael of the New. Now Milton, as Wordsworth 
has said of him, was a Hebrew in soul. He was grand, severe, 
austere. He loved to deal with the primeval, elementary forms 
both of inanimate nature and of human, before the manifold, 
ever multiplying combinations of thought and feeling had shaped 
themselves into the multifarious complexities of human char- 
acter. Both Samson and Comus are equally remote from the 
realities of modern humanity. He would have been a noble 
prophet. Among the Greeks, his imagination, like that of 
Eschylus, would have dwelt among the older gods. He wants 
the gentleness of Christian love, of that feeling to which the 
least thing is precious, as springing from God, and claiming 
kindred with man. 

"Where to find a parallel for Raphael in the modern world, I 
know not. Sophocles, among poets, most resembles him. In 
knowledge of the diversities of human character, he comes 
nearer than any other painter to him, who is unapproacht and 
unapproachable, Shakspeare ; and yet two worlds, that of Hu- 
mour, and that of Passion, separate them. In exquisiteness of 
art, Goethe might be compared to him. But neither he nor 
Shakspeare has Raphael's deep Christian feeling. And then 
there is such a peculiar glow and blush of beauty in his works : 
whithersoever he comes, he sheds beauty from his wings. 

Why did he die so early ? Because morning cannot last till 
noon, nor spring through summer. Early too as it was, he had 
lived through two stages of his art, and had carried both to 
their highest perfection. This rapid progressiveness of mind 
he also had in common with Shakspeare and Goethe, and with 
few others. u. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



421 



The readers of the Giaour will remember the narrow arch, 
over which the faithful are to enter into Paradise. In fact this 
arch was the edge of the sword, or rather of the arched scimi- 
tar. Hereby, if they wielded it bravely and murdei-ously, the 
Mussulraeu thought they should attain to that Garden of Bliss. 
Hence too did they deem it their duty to drive all men thither, 
even along that narrow and perilous bridge ; far more excusa- 
ble in so doing, than those who have used like murderous 
weapons against their Christian brethren, in the belief that they 
were casting them, not into heaven, but into hell. Even in 
minor matters the sword is a perilous instrument whereby to 
seek one's aim. Compulsion is not, and never can be convic- 
tion. They exclude each other. u. 

Musicians, at least dilettanti ones, are apt to complain of 
those who encore a tune, as having no true feeling for the art. 
It should be remembered however, that the peculiarity of music 
is, that its parts can never be perceived contemporaneously, but 
only in succession. Yet no work of art can be understood, 
unless we have conceived the idea of it as a whole, and can dis- 
cern the relations of its parts to each other as members of that 
whole. To judge of a picture, a statue, a building, we look at 
it again and again, both in its unity and in its details. So too 
do we treat a poem, which combines the objective permanence 
of the last-mentioned arts, with the successive development be- 
longing to music But until we know a piece of music, until 
we have heard it through already, it is scarcely possible for any 
ear to understand it. The sturdiest asserter of the organic 
unity of works of art will not pretend that he could construct a 
play of Shakspeare or of Sophocles out of a single scene, or 
even that he could construct a single speech out of the preced- 
ing ones ; although, when he has read and carefully examined 
it, he may maintain that all its parts hang together by a sort of 
inherent, inviolable necessity. The habit of lavishing all one's 
admiration on striking parts, independently of their relation to 
the whole, does indeed betoken a want of imaginative percep- 
tion, and of proper esthetical culture. In true works of art too 



422 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



the beauty of the parts is raised to a higher power by the hving 
idea which pervades the whole, as the physical beauty ot 
Eaphael's Virgins is by their relation to their Divine Child. 
But lor that very reason do we gaze on them with greater 
inteiltness, and return to them again and again. Nay, does not 
Nature herself teach us to encore tunes ? Her songsters repeat 
their songs over and over, with endless iteration. u. 

Wisdom is Alchemy. Else it could not be Wisdom. This is 
its unfailing characteristic, that it " finds good in everything," 
that it renders all things more precious. In this respect also 
does it renew the spirit of childhood within us : while foolish- 
ness hardens our hearts, and narrows our thoughts, it makes us 
feel a childlike curiosity and a childlike interest about all things. 
When our view is confined to ourselves, nothing is of value, 
except what ministers in one way or other to our own personal 
gratification : but in proportion as it widens, our sympathies 
increase and multiply : and when we have learnt to look on all 
things as God's works, then, as His works, they are all endeared 
to us. 

Hence nothing can be further from true wisdom, than the 
mask of it assumed by men of the world, who affect a cold in- 
difference about whatever does not belong to then' own im- 
mediate circle of interests or pleasures. u. 



It were much to be wisht that some philosophical scholar 
would explain the practical influence of religion in the ancient 
world. Much has been done of late for ancient mythology, 
which itself, until the time of Voss, was little better than a con- 
fused, tangled mass. Greek and Roman fables of all ages and 
sexes were jumbled together indiscriminately, with an inter- 
loper here and there from Egypt, or from the East ; and, 
whether found in Homer or in Tzetzes, they were all supposed 
to belong to the same whole. Yoss, not John Gerard, but John 
Henry, did a good service in trying to bring some sort of order 
and distinctness into this medley. But he mostly left out of 
sight, that one of the chief elements in mythology is the relig- 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



423 



ious. His imagination too was rather that of a kitchen-garden, 
than either of a flower-garden, or a forest : his favorite flowers 
were cauhflowers. Since his days there have been many valu- 
able contributions toward the history and genesis of mythology 
by Welcker, Ottfried Mueller, Buttraann, and others ; though 
the master mind that is to discern and unfold the organic idea 
is still wanting. 

Mythology however is not Religion. It may rather be re- 
garded as the ancient substitute, the poetical counterpart, for 
dogmatic theology. In addition to this, we require to know 
what was the Religion of the ancients, what influence Religion 
exercised over their feelings, over their intellect, over their 
will, over their views of life, and their actions. This too must 
be a historical work, distinguishing what belongs to different 
ages, giving us fragmentary representations where nothing 
more is discoverable, and carefully eschewing the attempt to 
complete and restore the fragments of one age by pieces 
belonging to another. Here also w^e shall find progressive 
stages, faith, superstition, scepticism, secret and open unbe- 
liefj which slid or rolled back into new forms of arbitrary 
superstition. u. 



Many learned men, Grotius, for instance, and Wetstein, have 
taken pains to illustrate the New Testament by quoting all the 
passages they could collect from the writers of classical an- 
tiquity, expressing sentiments in any way analogous to the doc- 
trines and precepts of the Gospel. This some persons regard 
as a disparagement to the honour of the Gospel, which they 
would fain suppose to have come down all at once from heaven, 
like a meteoric stone from a volcano in the moon, consisting of 
elements wholly different from anything found upon earth. 
But surely it is no disparagement to the w^isdom of God, or to 
the dignity of Reason, that the development of Reason should 
be preceded by corresponding instincts, and that something 
analogous to it should be found even in inferior animals. It is 
no disparagement to the sun, that he should be preceded by the 
dawn. On the contrary this is his glory, as it was also that of 



424 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



the Messiah, that, in the words with which MiUon describes His 
approach to battle, " far off His coming shone." If there had 
been no instincts in man leading him to Christianity, no yearn- 
ings and cravings, no stings of conscience and aspirations, for it 
to quiet and satisfy, it would have been no religion for man. 
Therefore, instead of shrinking from the notion that anything 
at all similar to any of the doctrines of Christianity may be 
found in heathen forms of religion, let us seek out all such 
resemblances diligently, giving thanks to God that He has 
never left Himself wholly without a witness. When we have 
found them all, they will only be single rays darting up here 
and there, forerunners of the sunrise. Subtract the whole 
amount of them from the Gospel, and quite enough will remain 
to bless God for, even the whole Gospel. u. 



Everybody knows and loves the beautiful story of the dog 
Argus, who just lives through the term of his master's absence, 
and sees him return to his home, and recognizes him, and re- 
joicing in the sight dies. Beautiful too as the story is in itself, 
it has a still deeper allegorical interest. For how many Ar- 
guses have there been, how many will there be hereafter, the 
course of whose years has been so ordered, that they will have 
just lived to see their Lord come and take possession of His 
home, and in their joy at the blissful sight have departed! 
How many such spirits, like Simeon's, will swell the praises of 
Him who spared them that He might save them. 

When watching by a deathbed, I have heard the cock crow 
as a signal for the spirit to take its flight from this world. 
This, I believe, is a common hour for such a journey. It is a 
comfortable thought, to regard the sufferer as having past 
through the night, and lived to see the dawn of an eternal day. 
Perhaps some thought of this kind flitted through the mind of 
Socrates, when he directed his sacrifice to Esculapius. Mr. 
Evans has thought fit, in his life of Justin Martyr, when coin- 
paring the end of Justin with that of Socrates, to rebuke the 
the latter as " a mere moralist," who " exhibited in his labt 
words a trait of gross heathen superstition." Surely this is 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



425 



neither wise nor just. It was not owing to any fault in Socra- 
tes, that he was not a Christian, that he was " a mere morahst.'* 
On the contrary, it is a glorious thing that he should have been 
a moralist, and such a moralist, amid the darkness of Heathen- 
ism ; and his glory is increast by his having recognized the 
duty of retaining a positive worship, while he saw its abuses, 
by his having been a philosopher, and yet not an unbeliever. 
I never could understand how it is necessary for the exaltation 
of Christianity to depreciate Socrates, any more than how it is 
requisite for the exaltation of the Creator to revile all the 
works of His Creation. u. 



The Rabbis tell, that, when Moses was about to lead the 
children of Israel out of Egypt, he remembered the promise 
made to Joseph, that his bones should be carried with them, 
and buried in the Land of Promise. But not knowing how to 
make out which were the real bones of Joseph, among the 
many laid in the same sepulcre, he stood at the entrance of 
the sepulcre, and cried. Bones of Joseph, come forth ! Where- 
upon the bones rose up and came toward him. With thankful 
rejoicing he gathered them together, and bore them away to 
the tents of Israel. 

Strange as this fable may seem, it is the likeness of a stranger 
reality, which we may see in ourselves and in others. For 
when our spirits, being awakened to the sense of their misery 
and slavery, are roused by the voice of some great Deliverer 
to go forth into the land of freedom and hope, do we not often 
turn back to the sepulcres in the house of our bondage, in 
which from time to time we have laid up such parts of ourselves 
as seemed to belong to a former stage of being, expecting to 
find them living, and able to answer the voice which calls them 
to go forth with us ? It is only by repeated disappointments, 
that we are taught no longer to seek the living among the 
dead, but to proceed on our pilgrimage, bearing the tokens of 
mortality along with us, in the assurance that, if we do bear 
them patiently and faithfully, until we come to the Land of 
Life, we may then deposit them in their true home, as precious 



426 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



seeds of immortality, which though sown in corruption and 
dishonour and weakness, will be raised in incorruption and 
glory and power. e. 

When M'ill the earth again hear the glad announcement, that 
the people hring much more than enough for the service of the 
work, luhich the Lord commanded to make (Exod. xxxvi. 5) ? 
Yet, until we bring more than enough, at least until we are 
kindled by a spirit which will make us desire to do so, we shall 
never bring enough. And ought we not? Your economists 
will say No. They, who would think the sun a useful creature, 
if he would come down from the sky and light their fires, will 
gravely reprehend such wasteful extravagance. At the same 
time no doubt they will continually be guilty of far greater and 
more wasteful. 

Among the numberless marvels, at which nobody marvels, 
few are more marvellous than the recklessness with which 
priceless gifts, intellectual and moral, are squandered and 
thrown away. Often have I gazed with wonder at the prod- 
igality displayed by Nature in the cistus, which unfolds hun- 
dreds or thousands of its white starry blossoms morning after 
morning, to shine in the light of the sun for an hour or two, 
and then fall to the ground. But who, among the sons and 
daughters of men, — gifted with thoughts " which wander 
through eternity," and with powers which have the godlike 
privilege of working good, and giving happiness, — who does 
not daily let thousands of these thoughts drop to the ground 
and rot ? who does not continually leave his powers to draggle 
in the mould of their own leaves ? The imagination can hardly 
conceive the hights of greatness and glory to which mankind 
would be raised, if all their thoughts and energies were to le 
animated with a living purpose, — or even those of a single 
people, or of the educated among a single people. But as in a 
forest of oaks, among the millions of acorns that fall every 
autumn, there may perhaps be one in a million that will grow 
up into a tree, somewhat in like manner fares it with the 
thoughts and feelings of man. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



427 



"What then must be our confusion, when we see all these 
wasted thoughts and feelings rise up in the Judgement, and 
bear witness against us ! 

But how are we to know whether they are wasted or not ? 

We have a simple, infallible test. Those which are laid up 
in heaven, those which are laid up in any heavenly work, those 
whereby we in any way carry on the work of God upon earth, 
are not wasted. Those which are laid up on earth, in any 
mere earthly work, in carrying out our own ends, or the ends 
of the Spirit of Evil, are heirs of death from the first, and 
can only rise out of it for a moment, to sink back into it for 
ever. u. 



People seem to think that love toward God must be some- 
thing totally different in kind from the love which we feel 
toward our fellow-creatures, nay, as though it might exist with- 
out any feeling at all. If we believed that it ought to be the 
same feeling, which is excited by a living friend upon earth, 
higher and purer, but not less real or warm, and if we tried 
our hearts, to see whether it is in us, by the same tests, there 
would be less self-deception on this point ; and we should more 
easily be convinced that Ave must be wholly destitute of that, of 
which we can show no lively token. a. 

The difference between heathen virtue and Christian good- 
ness is the difference between oars and sails, or rather between 
gallies and ships. 



God never does things by halves. He never leaves any 
work unfinisht : they are all wholes from the first. There are 
no demigods in Scripture. What is God is perfect God. What 
is man is mere man. 



The power of Faith will often shine forth the most, where 
the character is naturally weak. There is less to intercept and 
interfere with its workings. 



428 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



In the outward course of events we are often ready to see 
the hand of God in great things, but refuse to own it in small. 
In like manner it often happens that even they, who in heavy 
trials look wholly to God for strength and support, will in lesser 
matters trust to themselves. This is the source of the weak- 
ness and inconsistency betrayed by many, who yet on great 
occasions will act rightly. a. 



A blind man lets himself be led by a child. So must we be 
brought to feel, and to acknowledge to ourselves, that we are 
blind ; and then the time may come Avhen a little Child shall 
lead us. u. 



Love, it has been said, descends more abundantly than it 
ascends. The love of parents for their children has always 
been far more powerful than that of children for their parents : 
and who among the sons of men ever loved God with a 
thousandth part of the love which God has manifested 
to us ? A. 



By giving the glory of good actions to man, instead of to 
God, we weaken the power of example. If such or such a 
grace be the growth of such or such a character, our character, 
which is different, may be quite unable to attain to it. But if 
it be God's work in the soul, then on us too may He vouchsafe 
to bestow the same gift as on our neighbour. a. 

In darkness there is no choice. It is light, that enables iis 
to see the differences between things : and it is Christ, that 
gives us light. 

What is snow? Is it that the angels are shedding their 
feathers on the earth ? Or is the sky showering its blossom- 
on the grave of the departed year ? In it we see that, if the 
Earth is to be arrayed in this vesture of purity, her raiment 
must descend on her from above. Alas too ! we see in it, hov 
soon that pure garment becomes spotted and sullied, how soo.i 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



429 



it mostly passes away. There is something in it singularly ap- 
propriate to the season of our Lord's Nativity, as Milton has so 
finely urged in his Hymn. 

Nature in a^ve to Him 

Had doft her gaudy trim, 

"With her great Master so to sympathize. 

Only witli speeches fair 

She "vvooes the gentle air 

To hide her guilty front with innocent snow, 

And on her naked shame. 

Pollute with sinful blame. 

The saintly veil of maiden white to throw; 

Confounded that her Maker's eyes 

Should look so near upon her foul deformities. 

For this, as well as for other reasons, it was happy that the 
Nativity was placed in December. u. 



Wntten at Chmbridr/e, January 15th, 1817. 

Might}^ ^lagician, NatiTre ! I have heard 

Of rapid transformations, — r in my dreams 

Seen how with bii'ths the mind at freedom teems, — 

Seen how the ti-ees their gallafit vestments gird 

In Spring's all-pregnant hour. But thou excellest 

All fabled witchery, all the mind's quick brood; 

Even thyself thou dost surpass. What mood 

Of wanton power is this, in which thou wellest 

From thy impenetrable source, to pour 

A flood of milk-white splendour o'er the earth ! 

Shedding such tranquil joy on Winter hoar, 

More pure than jocund Spring's exulting mirth, — 

A joy like that sweet calmness, which is sent 

To soothe the parting horn-, where hfe is innocent. 

Yes, lovely art thou. Nature, as the death 

Of righteous spirits. Yesternight I sate, 

And gazed, and all the scene was desolate. 

I wake, and all is changed, — as though the breath 

Of sleep had borne me to another world. 

The abode of innocence. Still a few flakes 

Drop, soft as falling stars. The sun now makes 

The dazzling snow more dazzling. FloAvers up-curled 

In sleep thus swiftly scarce their bloom unfold. 

As these wide plains, so lately blank, disclose 

Their lilied face. The nun, whose streaming hair 



430 



GUESSES AT TEUTH. 



Is shorn, arrayed in spotless white behold: 

And Earth, when shorn of all her verdure, glows, 

la her bright veil, more saintly and more fair. 

An hour have I been standing, and have gazed 
On this pure field of snow, smooth as a lake, 
When every wind is husht ; and no thought brake 
The trance of pleasure which the vision raised. 
Or, if a thought intruded, 't was desire 
To lean my fevered cheek upon that breast 
Of virgin softness, and to taste the rest 
Its beauty seemed to promise. But the fire 
Would not more sui-ely mock my erring grasp. 
No faith is found, no permanence, in form 
Of loveliness, not e'en in woman's. Love 
Must stand on some morie stable base, must clasp 
Eound objects more enduring, life more warm: 
His only food the soul, his only home above. 

And now another thought intrudes to mar 

The quiet of my musings, like a sound 

Of thunder groaning through Night's still profound, 

And lures me to wage reckless, impious war 

Against the beauty of that silver main, — - 

To violate it with my feet, to tread 

O'er all its charms, to stain its spotless bed, — 

As some lewd wretch Avould a fair virgin stain. 

Whence this wild, wayward fantasy ? My soul 

Would shrink with horrour from such deed of shame. 

Yet oft, amid our passions restless roll, 

We love with wrong to dally without aim.* 

Alas ! too soon the angel visitant 

In Nature's course will leave our earthly haimt. u. 



January 17th, 1817. 
I said, our angel visitant would flee 
Too soon, unknowing with what truth I spoke. 
For he is gone, already gone, like smoke 
Of mists dissolving o'er the morning lea. 
The faint star melts in daylight's dawning beam; 
The thin cloud fades in ether's crystal sea; 
Thoughts, feelings, words, spring forth, and cease to be: 
And thou hast also vanisht, like a dream 
Of Childhood come to cheer Earth's hoary age. 
As though the aged Earth herself had di-eamt, — 
Viewless as hopes, fleeting as joys of youth ; 



* " To dally with wrong that does no harm." 



Coleridge, Ckristnbel 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



481 



And, bright as was thine air-born equipage, 

It only served fallaciously to tempt 

With visionary bliss, and bore no heart of truth. 

How like to Joy in everything thou art! 

Who earnest to smile upon our wintry way, 

Like in thy brightness, like in thy decay, 

A moment radiant to delude the heart. 

And what of thee remains ? Nought, — save the tear 

In which thou diest away; — save that the field 

Has now relaxt its bosom late congealed, 

As frozen hearts will in some short career 

Of gladness open, looking for the spring, 

And find it not, and sink back into ice ; — 

Save that the brooks rush turbidly along, 

Flooding their banks : thus, after reveling 

In some brief rapturous dream of Paradise, 

In passionate recoil our roused affections throng. f . 

The French rivers partake of the national character. Many 
of them look broad, grand and imposing; but they have no 
depth. And the greatest river in the country, the Rhone, loses 
half its usefulness from the impetuosity of its current. 

True goodness is like the glowworm in this, that it shines 
most when no eyes, except those of heaven, are upon it. u. 

He who does evil that good may come, pays a toll to the devil 
to let him into heaven. 



Many Italian girls are said to profane the black veil by tak- 
ing it against their will ; and so do many English girls profane 
the white one. 

The bulk of men, in choosing a wife, look out for a 
Fornarina : a few in youth dream about finding a Belle 
Jardiniere, v. 



We are so much the creatures of habit, that no great and 
sudden, change can at first be altogether agreeable . . . unless it 
be here and there a honeymoon. A. 



432 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



Our appetites were given to us to preserve and to propagate 
life. We abuse them for its destruction. a. 



The mind is like a sheet of white paper in this, that the im- 
pressions it receives the oftenest, and retains the longest, are 
black ones. 

None but a fool is always right ; and his right is the most 
unreasonable wrong. 

The difference between a speech and an essay should be some- 
thing like that between a field of battle and a parade. u. 



What do our clergy lose by reading their sermons ? They 
lose preaching, the preaching of the voice in many cases, the. 
preaching of the eye almost always. 



Histories used often to be stories. The fashion now is to 
leave out the story. Our histories are stall-fed : the facts 
are absorbed by the reflexions, as the meat sometimes is by the 
fat. u. 

G^est offreux comme il est pule ! il devroit mettre un peu de 
rouge : cried a woman out of the crowd, as the First Consul 
rode by at a review in 1802. She thought a general ought to 
shew a little blood in his cheeks. One might say the same of 
sundry modern philosophical treatises. u. 



Some persons give one the notion of an abyss of shallowness. 
These terms may seem contradictory ; but, like so many other 
contradictions, they have met and shaken hands in human 
nature. All such a man's thoughts, all his feelings, are super- 
ficial ; yet, try him where you will, you cannot get to a firm 
footing. u. 



A historian needs a peculiar discernment for that which is 
important and essential and generative in human affairs. This 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



433 



is one of the main elements of the historical genius, as it is of 
the statesmanly. u. 

A statesman should have ears to hear the distant rustling 
of the wings of Time. Most people only catch sight of it, 
when it is flying away. When it is overhead, it darkens their 



view 



u. 



La France, c'est moi, disoit Louis XIV. Mais son ambition 
n'etoit que mediocre : car, le monde, c'est moi, dit tout le 
monde. 

An epicure is said to have complained of a haunch of veni- 
son, as being too much for one, yet not enough for two. Bona- 
parte thought the same of the world. What a great man he 
must have been then ! To be sure : ambition is just as valid a 
proof of a strong and sound mind, as gormandising is of a strong 
and sound body. u. 

The memory ought to be a store-room. Many turn theirs 
rather into a lumber-room. Nay, even stores grow mouldy and 
spoil, unless aired and used betimes ; and then they too become 
lumber. u. 



At Havre I saw some faces from the country, which remind- 
ed me of our old monuments, and shewed me what the beauties 
must have been, that inspired the chivalry of our Henries and 
Edwards. They were long, almost to a fault, regular, tranquil, 
unobservant, with the clearest, freshest bloom. At E-ouen these 
faces are no longer met with ; and one finds oneself quite in 
France, the only country in civilized Europe where beauty is of 
the composite order, made up of prettiness, liveliness, sparkling 
eyes, artificial flowers, and a shawl, — the only region between 
Lapland and Morocco, where youth is without bloom, and age 
without dignity. 

Expression is action ; beauty is repose. 

19 BB 



434 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



People say, St. Peter's looks larger every time they see it. 
It does more. It seems to grow larger, while the eye is fixt on 
it, even from the very door, and then expands, as you go for- 
ward, almost like our idea of God. 

Hie Rhodus ; hie salta. Do not wait for a change of out- 
ward circumstances ; but take your circumstances as they are, 
and make the best of them. This saying, which was meant lo 
shame a braggart, will admit of a very different and profounder 
application. Goethe has changed the postulate of Archimedes, 
Give me a standing-place^ and I will move the world, into the 
precept. Make good thy standing-place, and move the world. 
This is what he did throughout his life. So too was it that Lu- 
ther moved the world, not by waiting for a favorable opportu- 
nity, but by doing his daily work, by doing God's will day by 
day, without thinking of looking beyond. We ought not to 
linger in inaction until Blucher comes up, but, the moment we 
catch sight of him in the distance, to rise and charge. Her- 
cules must go to Atlas, and take his load off his shoulders per- 
force. This too is the meaning of the maxims in Wilhelrn 
Meister : Here, or nowhere, is Herrnhut : Here, or nowhere, is 
America. We are not to keep on looking out for the coming of 
the Kingdom of Heaven, but to believe firmly, and to acknowl- 
edge that it is come, and to live and act in that knowledge and 
assurance. Then will it indeed be come for us. u. 



The business of Philosophy is to circumnavigate human na- 
ture. Before we start, we are told that we shall find people j 
who stand head-downwards, with their feet against ours. Very jj 
many won't believe this, and swear it must be all a hoax. Many 'i 
take fright at the thought, and resolve to stay at home, where j 
their peace will not be disturbed by such preposterous visions. | 
Of those who set out, many stop half way, among the antipodes, j 
and insist that standing head-downwards is the true posture of 1 
every reasonable being. It is only the favoured few, who are 
happy enough to complete the round, and to get home again ; 
where they find everything just as they left it, save that hence- | 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



435 



forward they see it in its relations to the world, of which it 
forms a part. This too is the proof that they have indeed com- 
pleted the round, their getting back to their home, and not feel- 
ing strange, but at home in it. u. 

The common notion of the Ideal, as exemplified more espe- 
cially in the Painting of the last century, degrades it into a mere 
abstraction. It was assumed that, to raise an object into an 
ideal, you must get rid of everything individual about it. Where- 
as the true ideal is the individual, purified and potentiated, the 
individual freed from everything that is not individual in it, 
with all its parts pervaded and animated and harmonized by 
the spirit of life which flows from the centre. 

This blunder however ran cheek by jowl with another, much 
like a pair of mules dragging the mind of man to the palace of 
the Omnipotent Nonentity. For the purport of the Essay on 
the Human Understanding, like that of its unacknowledged 
parent, and that of the numerous fry which sprang from it, was 
just the same, to maintain that we have no ideas, or, what 
amounts to the same thing, that our ideas are nothing more than 
abstractions, defecated by divers processes of the Understanding. 
Thus flame, for instance, is an abstraction from coal, a rose from 
a clod of earth, life from food, thought from sense, God from 
the world, which itself is only a prior abstraction from Chaos. 

There is no hope of arriving at Truth, until we have learnt 
to acknowledge that the creatures of Space and Time are, as 
it were, so many chambers of the prisonhouse, in which the 
timeless, spaceless Ideas of the Eternal Mind are shut up, and 
that the utmost reach of Abstraction is, not to create, but to 
liberate, to give freedom and consciousness to that, which ex- 
isted potentially and in embryo before. U. 

The word encyclopedia, which of late years has emerged 
from the study of the philosopher, and is trundled through 
every street and alley by such as go about teaching the rudi- 
ments of omniscience, is an example how language is often far 
wiser than the people who make use it. The framers of words, 



436 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



as has been remarkt already (p. 228), seem not seldom to have 
been gifted with something like a spirit of divination, which en- 
abled them to see more than they distinctly perceived, to antici- ' 
pate more than they knew. The royal stamp however, which 
was legible when the word was first issued, is often rubbed off : 
and it is worn down until one hardly knows what it was meant 
to be. The word encyclopedia implies the unity and circularity 
of knowledge, — that it has one common central principle, which 
is at once constitutive and regulative : for there can be no circle 
without a centre ; and it is by an act emanating from the centre, 
that the circle must be constructed. Moreover the name im- 
plies that in knowledge, as in being, there is not merely a pro- 
gression, but a returning upon itself, that the alpha and omega j 
coincide, and that the last and fullest truth must be the selfsame 
with the first germinal truth, that it must be, as it were, the 
full-grown oak which was latent in the acorn. Whereas our 
encyclopedias are neither circular, nor have they any centre. 
If they have the slightest claim to such a title, it can only be as 
round robins, all the sciences being tost together in them just as 
the whim of the alphabet has dictated. Indeed one might 
almost fancy that a new interpretation of the name had been 
devised, and that henceforward it was to mean, all knowledge in 
a penny piece. u. 

Dugald Stewart, in trying, at the beginning of his Philosophy 
of the Human 3Iind, to account for the prejudice commonly en- 
tertained in England against metaphysical speculations, urg< 

the frivolous and absurd discussions which abound in the writ- 
ings of most metaphysical authors," as the justifying cause of 
this prejudice. Hereby, it appears shortly after, he especially 
means " the vain and unprofitable disquisitions of the School* ■ 
men.*' No doubt too he would subsequently have rankt " the IH 
vain and unprofitable disquisitions " of Kant and his successors 
along with them. Here we find a singular phenomenon in the 
history of causation. A cause, which acts attractively in its 
own neighbourhood, is assumed to act repulsively at a distance, 
both in time and in space. The Scholastic Philosophy, which so y 



GUESSES AT TRUTIL 



437 



fascinated the thoughtful in its own age, the modern Philosophy 
of Germany, by which almost every intellect in that country 
has been more or less possest and inspired, are the cause why 
we in England and in these days care so little about the Philoso- 
phy of the Human Mind, Conversely he may perhaps have 
consoled himself by arguing, that, as so few people in his days 
cared about the Philosophy of the Human Mind, multitudes, ac- 
cording to the law of compensation, will take the deepest inter- 
est in it hereafter ; and that Reid's Philosojjhy is like a rocket, 
which has nothing very captivating while one holds it in one's 
hands, yet which will spread out into a stream of light, when it 
mounts to a distance. But no ! These very speculations, 
which are condemned as " vain and unprofitable," are the spec- 
ulations which come home to men's hearts and bosoms, and stir 
and kindle them. When we are told that we are bundles of 
habits, tliat our minds are sheets of white paper, that our 
thoughts are the extract of our sensations, that our conscience is 
a mere ledger of profit and loss, we turn to the practical busi- 
ness of life, as furnishing nobler subjects to occupy our time 
with. When we are told of our immortal, heavenborn nature, 
of the eternal laws of Reason, of Imagination, of Conscience, 
we start out of our torpour ; and our hearts respond to the 
voice which calls us to such contemplations. Surely the coun- 
trymen of Locke and Hume and Hartley and Reid and Priest- 
ley and Paley might have nearer reasons for disregarding meta- 
physics, than those found in the subtilties of Scotus and Aqui- 
nas, — of whom, be it remembered, they knew nothing. u. 

A similar habit of thought led the same w^riter to say, in his 
Dissertation on the Progress of Philosophy, prefixt to the Sup- 
plement to the Encyclopedia Britannica (p. 25) : " In modern 
times this influence of names is, comparatively speaking, at an 
end. The object of a public teacher is no longer to inculcate a 
particular system of dogmas, but to prepare his pupils for exer- 
cising their own judgements, to exhibit to them an outhne of 
the different sciences, and to suggest subjects for their future 
examination." Isow Avhat is the result of this change? That 



438 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



the pupil's mind is mazed and bewildered in a labyrinth of 
outlines, — that he knows not whither to turn his steps, or 
where to fix, — that the "future examination" is postponed 
sine die, — and that he leaves the university knowing a little 
about everything, but knowing nothing. No good was ever 
effected by filling a student's mind with outlines. It is to sow 
the husk, instead of the kerneh 

" It was in consequence (Mr. Stewart adds in a Note) of 
this mode of conducting education, by means of oral instruction 
alone, that the different sects of philosophy arose in ancient 
Greece." One might have fancied that this instance would 
have sufficed to shew wdiat a powerful influence may be exer- 
cised in this manner, by a teacher who knows how to act upon 
the minds and the affections of his hearers ; wherefore the aim 
of a wise teacher should be to make the most of so useful an 
instrument, taking care to apply it to a right purpose. For 
what example does the history of literature present of a study 
flourishing as Philosophy did in Greece ? In fact the worst 
thing about it was its over-luxuriance, which needed pruning 
and repressing. But no. The oracles of history, like all others, 
are two-edged. Let them speak as loudly and distinctly as they 
may, they are not to be understood, unless the hearer is wilhng 
to understand them. Where this will is wanting, a person may 
prefer the barrenness which has surrounded the Edinburgh 
metaphysical chair, to the rich, ever-teeming tropic landscape 
of Greek Philosophy. 

Cherish and foster that spirit of love, which lies wakeful, 
seeking what it may feed on, in every genial young mind : 
supply it with wholesome food : place an object before it worthy | 
of its embraces : else it will try to appease its cravings by j 
lawless indulgence. What your system may be, is of minor j 
importance : in every one, as Leibnitz says, there is a suffi- 
ciency of truth : the tree must have life in it ; or it could not 
stand. But you should plant the tree in the open plain, before 
your pupil's eyes : do not leave him to find out his way amid 
the windings of a tangled forest : let him see it distinctly, by 
itself ; and no matter to what highth it may rise, his sight will 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



439 



overtop it ; though, when it is surrounded by others, he cannot 
scan its dimensions. Plunge as deep as you will into the sea 
of knowledge ; and do not fear his being unable or unwilling to 
follow you. The difficulty itself acts as a spur. For in this 
respect the mind is unlike a sword : it will be sharpened more 
effectively by a rugged rock, than by a whetstone. It springs 
up strongest and loftiest in craggy places, where it has had to 
commune and wage battle with the winds. 

The cautious avoidance of difficult and doubtful points by 
a teacher in a university implies an ignorance of the suscepti- 
bility and subtilty of the youthful mind, whenever its feehngs 
go along with its studies. He who is to win the race, must not 
stop short of the goal, or go wide of it, through fear of running 
against it : meta fervidis evitata rotis, — this will be his aim. 
Would Columbus have discovered America, if he had been 
merely trained to fair-weather, pleasure-boat sailing? Could 
Shakspeare have written Lear and Hamlet, if some Scotch 
metaphysician had "prepared him for exercising his own judge- 
ment," by " exhibiting an outline of the different sciences to 
hira, and suggesting subjects to his future examination " ? Con- 
crete is said to be the best foundation for a house ; and it is by 
the observation of the concrete, that Nature trains the thinkinfj 
powers of mankind. This her method then, we may be sure, 
will also be the most efficient with individuals. 

Besides, this calling upon the young, at the very moment 
when they are first crossing the threshold of the temple of 
Knowledge, to sit in judgement on all the majestic forms that 
line the approach to its sanctuary, tends to pamper the vice, to 
which the young are especially prone, of an overweening, pre- 
sumptuous vanity. Under judicious guidance they may be 
trained to love and reverence Truth, and all her highpriests : 
but more easily may they be led to despise the achievements of 
former times, and to set up their own age, and more especially 
themselves, as the highest objects of their worship. This too 
must needs be the result, when they are taught to give sen- 
tence on all the great men of old, to regard their own decision 
as supreme, and to pay homage solely to themselves. What 



440 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



will, what must be the produce of such a system ? Will they 
not be like the Moralist in AYordsworth's Poefs Epitaph ? 
who 

has neither eyes nor ears, 
Himself his world, and his own God : 

One to whose smooth-nibbed soul can cling 
Kor form, nor feeling, great or small, 
A reasoning, self-sufficing thing, 
An intellectual all-in-all. 

IT. 



A strong and vivid imagination is scarcely less valuable to a 
philosopher, than to a poet. For the philosopher also needs 
that the objects of his contemplation should stand in their living 
fulness before him. The first requisite for discerning the rela- 
tions and differences of things is to see the things themselves 
clearly and distinctly. From a want of this clear, distinct per- 
ception, the bulk of those who busy themselves in the construc- 
tion of philosophical systems, are apt to substitute abstractions 
for realities ; and on these abstractions they build their card- 
houses by the aid of logical formules. No wonder that such 
houses are soon overthrown, nay, that they topple ere long 
through their own insubstantiality. 

Nevertheless an imaginative philosopher has continual occa- • 
sion for exercising a more than ordinary selfdistrust. Among 
the manifold aspects of things, there are always some which 
will appear to accord with his prepossessions. They will seem 
in his eyes, under the colouring of these prepossessions, to fit 
into his scheme, just as though it had been made *for them. 
But whenever this is the case, we should be especially dis- 
trustful of appearances. For a prima facie view of things 
cannot be a scientifically or philosophically correct one. It will 
have more or less of subjective, relative truth, but can never 
be the truth itself, absolutely and objectively. Whatever our 
position may be, it cannot be the centre ; and only from the 
centre can things be seen in their true bearings and relations. 
Yet, by an involuntary delusion, consequent upon our separa- 
tion and estrangement from the real Centre of the Universe, — 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



441 



the Centre that does not abide in any single point, but at every 
point finds a Universe encircling it, — we cannot help assuming 
that we ourselves are that centre, and that the sun and moon 
and stars are merely revolving around us. u. 

Priidens inqidsitio dimidium scientiae. The first step to 
self-knowledge is self-distrust. Nor can we attain to any kind 
of knowledge, except by a like process. We must fall on our 
knees at the threshold ; or we shall not gain entrance into the 
temple. u. 

They who are in the habit of passing sentence upon books, — 
and what ignoramus in our days does not deem himself fully 
qualified for sitting in the seat of the scorner ? — are apt to 
think that they have condemned a work irretrievably, when 
they have pronounced it to be unintelligible. Unintelligible to 
whom ? To themselves, the self-constituted judges. So that 
their sentence presumes their competency to pronounce it : and 
this, to every one save themselves, may be exceedingly ques- 
tionable. 

It is true, the very purpose for which a writer publishes his 
thoughts, is, that his readers should share them with him. 
Hence the primary requisite of a style is its intelligibleness : 
that is to say, it must be capable of being understood. But 
intelligibleness is a relative quality, varying with the capacity 
of the reader. The easiest book in a language is inaccessible 
to those who have never set foot within the pale of that lan- 
guage. The simplest elementary treatise in any science is 
obscure and perplexing, until we become familiar with the ter- 
minology of that science. Thus every writer is entitled to 
demand a certain amount of knowledge in those for whom he 
writes, and a certain degree of dexterity in using the imple- 
ments of thought. In this respect too there should not only be 
milk for babes, but also strong meat for those who are of full 
age. It is absurd to lay down a rule, that every man's thoughts 
should move at the selfsame pace, the measure of which we 
naturally take from our own. Indeed, if it fatigues us to keep 
19* 



442 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



up with one who walks faster, and steps out more widely than 
we are wont to do, there may also be an excess on the other 
side, which is more intolerably wearisome. 

Of course a writer, who desires to be popular, will not put 
on seven-league boots, with which he would soon escape out of 
sight. Yet the highest authority has told us, that " the poet's 
eye Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven," 
taking the rapidity of vision as a type for that of the Imagina- 
tion, which surely ought not to lag behind the fleetest of the 
senses. In logical processes indeed transitions are less sudden. 
If you wish to bind people with a chain of reasoning, you must 
not skip over too many of the links ; or they may fail to per- 
ceive its cogency. Still it is wholesome and bracing for the 
mind, to have its faculties kept on the stretch. It is hke the 
effect of a walk in Switzerland upon the body. Reading an 
Essay of Bacon's for instance, or a chapter of Aristotle or of 
Butler, if it be well and thoughtfully read, is much like climb- 
ing up a hill, and may do one the same sort of good. Set the 
tortoise to run against the hare ; and, even if he does not over- 
take it, he will do more than he ever did previously, more than 
he would ever have thought himself capable of doing. Set the 
hare to run with the tortoise : he falls asleep. 

Suppose a person to have studied Xenophon and Thucydides, 
till he has attained to the same thorough comprehension of them 
both ; and this is so for from being an unwarrantable supposi- 
tion, that the very difficulties of Thucydides tempt and stimu- 
late an intelligent reader to form a more intimate acquaintance 
with him : which of the two will have strengthened the student's 
mind the most ? from which will he have derived the richest and 
most lasting treasures of thought ? Who, that has made friends 
with Dante, has not had his intellect nerved and expanded by 
following the pilgrim through his triple world ? and would 
Tasso have done as much for him ? The labour itself, which 
must be spent in order to understand Sophocles or Shakspeare, 
to search out their hidden beauties, to trace their labyrinthine 
movements, to dive into their bright, jeweled caverns, and con- 
verse with the sea-nymphs that dwell there, is its own abundant 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



443 



reward ; not merely from the enjoyment that accompanies it, 
but because such pleasure, indeed all pleasure that is congenial 
to our better nature, is refreshing and invigorating, like a 
draught of nectar from heaven. In such studies we imitate 
the example of the eagle, unsealing his eyesight by gazing at 
the smi. 

South, in his sixth Sermon, after speaking of the difficulties 
which we have to encounter in the search after truth, urges the 
beneficial effect of those difficulties. " Truth (he says) is a 
great stronghold, barred and fortified by God and Nature ; and 
diligence is properly the Understanding's laying siege to it ; so 
that, as in a kind of warfare, it must be perpetually upon the 
watch, observing all the avenues and passes to it, and accord- 
ingly makes its approaches. Sometimes it thinks it gains a 
point ; and presently again it finds itself baffled and beaten off : 
yet still it renews the onset, attacks the difficulty afresh, plants 
this reasoning, and that argument, this consequence, and that 
distinction, like so many intellectual batteries, till at length it 
forces a way and passage into the obstinate enclosed truth, that 
so long withstood and defied all its assaults. The Jesuits have 
a saying common amongst them, touching the institution of 
youth, (in which their chief strength and talent lies,) that Vexa- 
tio dat intellectiim. As when the mind casts and turns itself 
restlessly from one thing to another, strains this power of the 
soul to apprehend, that to judge, another to divide, a fourth to 
remember, — thus tracing out the nice and scarce observable 
difference of some things, and the real agreement of others, till 
at length it brings all the ends of a long and various hypothesis 
together, sees how one part coheres with and depends upon an- 
other, and so clears off all the appearing contrarieties and con- 
tradictions, that seemed to lie cross and uncouth, and to make 
the whole unintelligible, — this is the laborious and vexatious 
inquest, that the soul must make after science. For Truth, like 
a stately dame, will not be seen, nor shew herself at the first 
visit, nor match with the understanding upon an ordinary court- 
ship or address. Long and tedious attendances must be given, 
and the hardest fatigues endured and digested : nor did ever 



444 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



the most pregnant wit in the world bring forth anything great, 
lasting, and considerable, without some pain and travail, some 
pangs and throes before the delivery. Now all this that I 
have said is to shew the force of diligence in the investigation 
of truth, and particularly of the noblest of all truths, which is 
that of religion." 

For my own part, I have ever gained the most profit, and the 
most pleasure also, from the books which have made me think 
the most : and, when the difficulties have once been overcome, 
these are the books which have struck the deepest root, not only 
in my memory and understanding, but likewise in my affections. 
For this point too should be taken into account. ^Ve are wont 
to think slightly of that, which it costs us a slight effort to win. 
When a maiden is too forward, her admirer deems it time to 
draw back. AVhereas whatever has associated itself with the 
arousal and activity of our better nature, with the important 
and memorable epochs in our lives, whether moral or intellect- 
ual, is, — to cull a sprig from the beautiful passage in which 
"Wordsworth describes the growth of jMichael's love for his na- 
tive hills, — 

Our living being, even more 
Than our own blood, and, — could it less ? — retains 
Strong hold on our affections, is to us 
A pleasurable feeling of blind love, 
The pleasure which there is in life itself. 

If you would fertilize the mind, the plough must be driven 
over and through it. The gliding of wheels is easier and rap- 
ider, but only makes it harder and more barren. Above all, in 
the present age of light reading, that is, of reading hastily, 
thoughtlessly, indiscriminately, unfruitfully, when most books 
are forgotten as soon as they are finisht, and very many sooner, 
it is well if something heavier is cast now and then into the 
midst of the literary public This may scare and repell the 
weak : it will rouse and attract the stronger, and increase their 
strength by making them exert it. In the sweat of the brow is 
the mind as well as the body to eat its bread. Nil sine magno 
Musa labore dedit mortcdihus. 

Are writers then to be studiously difficult, and to tie knots for 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



445 



the mere purpose of compelling their readers to untie them ? 
Not so. Let them follow the bent of their own minds. Let 
their style be the I'aithful mirror of their thoughts. Some minds 
are too rapid and vehement and redundant to flow along in lucid 
transparence ; some have to break over rocks, and to force a 
way through obstacles, which would have dammed them in. 
Tacitus could not write like Cesar. Niebuhr could not write 
like Goldsmith. u. 



Train the understanding. Take care that the mind has a 
stout and straight stem. Leave the flowers of wit and fancy to 
come of themselves. Sticking them on will not make them 
grow. You can only engraft them, by grafting that which will 
produce them. 

Another rule of good gardening may also be applied with 
advantage to the mind. Thin your fruit in spring, that the 
tree may not be exhausted, and that some of it may come to 
perfection. u. 

There are some fine passages, I am told, in that book. 
Are there ? Then beware of them. Fine passages are 
mostly culs de sacs. For in books also does one see 

Rich windows that exclude the light, 

And passages that lead to nothing. xj. 



A writer is the only person who can give more than he has. 
It may be doubted however whether such gifts are not mostly 
in bad money. u. 

Fields of thought seem to need lying fallow. After some 
powerful mind has brought a new one into cultivation, the same 
seed is sown in it over and over again, until the crop degener- 
ates, and the land is worn out. Hereupon it is left alone, and 
gains time to recruit, before a subsequent generation is led, by 
the exhaustion of the country round, to till it afresh. u. 



The ultimate tendency of civilization is toward barbarism. 



446 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



The question is not whether a doctrine is beautiful, but 
whether it is true. When we want to go to a place, we don't 
ask whether the road leads through a pretty country, but 
whether it is the right road, the road pointed out by authority, 
the turnpike-road. 



How poorly must he have profited by the study of Plato, who 
said, 3Ialo cum Platone errare, quam cum istis vera seiitire ! 
A maxim of this kind may indeed serve for those who are not 
ordained to the ministry of Truth. The great bulk of mankind 
must in all things take much for granted, as everybody must in 
many things. They whose calling is to act, need to have cer- 
tain guiding principles of faith to look up to, fixt like stars high 
above the changeful, and often storm-rent atmosphere of their 
cares and doubts and passions, principles which they may hold 
to be eternal, from their fixedness, and from their light. The 
philosopher too himself must perforce take many things for 
granted, seeing that the capacities of human knowledge are so 
limited. Only his assumptions will be in lower and commoner 
matters, with regard to which he w^ill have to receive much on 
trust. For his thoughts dwell among principles. He mounts, 
like the astronomer, into the region of the stars themselves, and 
measures their magnitudes and their distances, and calculates 
their orbits, and distinguishes the fixt from the erring, the solar 
sources of light from the satellites which fill their urns from 
these everlasting fountains, and distinguishes those also, which 
dutifully preserve their regular, beatific courses, from the vagrant 
emissaries of destruction. He must have an entire, implicit 
faith in the illimitable beneficence, that is, in the divinity of 
Truth. He must devoutly believe that God is Truth, and that 
Truth therefore must ever be one with God. 

Cicero, I am aware, ascribes that speech {Tiisc. Quaest, i. 
17) to the young man whom he is instructing; a circumstance 
overlookt by those who have tried to confirm themselves in 
their faintheartedness, by pleading his authority for believing 
that a falsehood may be better than Truth. But he immedi- 
ately applauds bis pupil, and makes the sentiment his own: 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



447 



Made virtute : ego enim ipse cum eodem illo non invitus errave- 
rim. It is plain from this sentence, the evidence of Avhich 
might be strengthened by a number of others, that what Cicero 
admired so much in Plato, was not his philosophy. On the 
contrary, as he himself often forgot the thinker in the talker, so, 
his eye for words having been sharpened by continual practice, 
he was apt to look in others also at the make of the garments 
their thoughts were arrayed in, rather than at the countenance 
or the body of the thoughts themselves. He had told us him- 
self a little before : Hanc perfectam philosophiam semper judi- 
cavi, quae de maximis quaestionihus copiose posset ornateque 
dicere. Thus what he valued most in Plato, was his elo- 
quence ; the true unequaled worth of which however is its per- 
fect fitness for exhibiting the thoughts it contains, or, so to say, 
its transparency. For, while in most other writers the thoughts 
are only seen dimly, as in water, where the medium itself is 
visible, and more or less distorts or obscures them, being often 
turbid, often coloured, and often having no little mud in it, in 
Plato one almost looks through the language, as through air, 
discerning the exact form of the objects which stand therein, 
and every part and shade of which is brought out by the sunny 
light resting upon them. Indeed, when reading Plato, we 
hardly think about the beauty of his style, or notice it except 
for its clearness : but, as our having felt the sensations of sick- 
ness makes us feel and enjoy the sensations of health, so does 
the acquaintance we are forced to contract with all manner of 
denser and murkier writers, render us vividly sensible of the 
bright daylight of Plato. Cicero however might almost have 
extracted the Beauties of Plato, as somebody has extracted the 
Beauties of Shakspeare ; wdiich give as good a notion of his 
unspeakable, exuberant beauty, as a pot pourri gives of a 
flower-garden, or as a lump of teeth would give of a beautiful 
mouth. 

As to Plato's pure, impartial, searching philosophy, Cicero 
was too full of prejudices to sympathize with it. Philosophy 
was not the bread of life to him, but a medicinal cordial in his 
afflictions. He loved it, not for itself, but for certain results 



448 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



which he desired and hoped to gain from it. In philosophy he 
was never more than an Eclectic, that is, in point of fact, no 
philosopher at all. For the very essence of the philosophical 
mind lies in this, that it is constrained by an irresistible impulse 
to ascend to primary, necessary principles, and cannot halt until 
it reaches the living, streaming sources of Truth ; whereas the 
Eclectic will stop short where he likes, at any maxim to which 
he chooses to ascribe the authority of a principle. The philo- 
sophical mind must be systematic, ever seeking to behold all 
things in their connexion, as parts or members of a great or- 
ganic whole, and impregnating them all with the electric spirit 
of order ; while the Eclectic is content if he can string together 
a number of generalizations. A Philosopher incorporates and 
animates; an Eclectic heaps and ties up. The Philosopher 
combines multiplicity into unity; the Eclectic leaves unity 
straggling about in multiplicity. The former opens the arteries 
of Truth, the latter its veins. Cicero's legal habits peer out 
from under his philosophical cloak, in his constant appeal to 
precedent, his ready deference to authority. For in law, as in 
other things, the practitioner does not go beyond maxims, that 
is, secondary or tertiary principles, taking his stand upon the 
mounds which his predecessors have erected. 

Cicero was indeed led by his admiration of Plato to adopt 
the form of the dialogue for his own treatises, of all forms the 
best fitted for setting forth philosophical truths in their free ex- 
pansion and intercommunion, as well as in their distinctness 
and precision, without chaining up Truth, and making her run 
round and round in the mill of a partial and narrow system. 
But he has nothing of the dialectic spirit. His collocutors do 
not wrestle with one another, as they did in the intellectual 
gymnasia of the Greeks. After some preliminary remarks, 
and the interchange of a few compliments characterized by 
that urbanity in which no man surpasses him, he throws off the 
constraint of logical analysis; and his speakers sit down by 
turns in the portico, and deliver their didactic harangues, just 
as in a bad play the personages tell you their story at length, 
and of course each to his own advantage. You must not inter- 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



449 



rupt them with a question for the ^Y0^1d ; you would be sure to 
put them out. 

But if the love of Plato is a worthless ground for preferring 
errour to truth, still more reprehensible is it to go wrong out of 
hatred or contempt for any one, be he who he may. Could the 
Father of lies speak truth, it would be our duty to believe him 
when he did so. u. 



In the preface to Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, there is a 
sentence, which at first thought may remind us of Cicero's say- 
ing about Plato, and may seem analogous to it, but which, when 
more closely examined, we perceive to be its diametrical oppo- 
site. That unhappy enthusiast, who, through a calamitous 
combination of circumstances, galling and fretting a morbidly 
sensitive temperament, became a fanatical hater of the perver- 
sions and distortions conjured up by his own feverish imagina- 
tion, there says : " For my part I had rather be damned with 
Plato and Lord Bacon, than go to heaven with Paley and Mal- 
thus." Here however, if we look away from the profaneness of 
the expressions, the meaning is grand and noble. Such is the 
author's faith in truth and goodness, and his love for them, he 
would rather incur everlasting misery by cleaving to them, than 
enjoy everlasting happiness, if it could only be won by sacrificing 
his reason and conscience to falsehood and coldhearted worldli- 
ness. Thus this sentence at bottom is only tantamount to that 
most magnanimous saying of antiquity. Fiat justitia, ruat coe- 
hiJJi: which does not mean, that the fulfilment of Justice would 
be the knell of the Universe, but that, even though this were to 
be the consequence, even though the world were to go to rack, 
Justice must and ought to be fulfilled. The mind which had 
not been taught how Mercy and Truth, Pighteousness and Peace 
were to meet together and to be reconciled for ever in the 
Divine Atonement, could not mount to a sublimer anticipation 
of the blessed declaration, that Heaven and Earth shall pass 
away, but the word of God shall not pass away. 

At the same time Shelley's words exhibit the miserable delu- 
sion he was under, and shew how what he hated, under the 

CC 



450 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



name of Christianity, was not Christianity itself, but rather a 
medley of antichristian notions, which he blindly identified with 
it, from finding them associated with it in vulgar opinion, u. 

The name Eclectic is often misused nowadays, by being 
applied to such as will not surrender their reason and conscience 
to the yoke of a dogmatical system, anathematizing everything 
beyond its pale, — to those who, recognizing the infinite fulness 
and plastic life of Truth, delight to trace it out under all mani- 
festations, and to acknowledge that, amid the numberless errours 
and perversions and exaggerations with which it has been mixt 
up, it has still been the one source of a living power in every 
mode of human opinion. Thus I have seen the name assigned 
to Neander, and to other writers no less alien from the Eclectic 
spirit. This however is mere ignorance and confusion. 

The Eclectic is a person who picks out certain propositions, 
such as strike his fancy or his moral sense, and seem edifying 
or useful, from divers systems of philosophy, and strings or 
patches them together, without troubling himself much about 
their organic unity or coherence. When the true philosophical 
spirit, which everywhere seeks after unity, under the conviction 
that the universe must reflect the oneness of the contemplating 
as well as of the Creative Mind, was waning away, dilettanti 
philosophers, who were fond of dabbling in the records of prior 
speculations, arose both among the Greeks and at Rome: and 
of these, Diogenes Laertius tells us (i. § 21), Potamo of Alex- 
andria introduced iK\€KTiKr]V aipeo-iv, e/fXe^a/xei/oy to. dpecravra 
€Kd(TTr]9 Twv a\pk(T((ov. That is to say, he may have been the 
first to assume the name ; but the spirit Avhich led him to do so 
was already wisely diffused. Indeed little else in the way of 
philosophy gained much favour, from his days, at the beginning 
of the Roman empire, down to the first coming forward of the 
Schoolmen. 

This procedure may best be illustrated by the wellknown 
story of Zeuxis, who took the most beautiful features and 
members of several beautiful women to make a more beautiful 
one than any in his Helen. In fact this story is related by 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



451 



Cicero at the beginning of the second Book of his work De In- 
ventione, with the view of justifying his own design of writing a 
treatise, in which, he says, " Non unum aliquod proposuimus 
exemplum, cujus omnes partes, quocumque essent in genere, 
exprimendae nobis necessario vidercntur ; sed, omnibus ununi 
in locum coactis scriptoribus, quod quisque commodissime prae- 
cipere videbatur, excerpsimus, et ex variis ingeniis excellentis- 
sima quaeque libavimus." He adds that, if his skill were 
equal to that of the painter, his work ought to be still better, 
inasmuch as he had a larger stock of models to choose from : 
" Ille una ex urbe, et ex eo numero virginum, quae turn erant, 
ehgere potuit: nobis omnium, quicumque fuerunt, ab ultimo 
principio hujus praeceptionis usque ad hoc tempus, expositis 
copiis, quodcumque placeret eligendi potestas fuit." That such a 
process, though the genius of Zeuxis may have corrected its 
evil, is not the right one for the production of a great work of art, 
— that a statue or picture ought not to be a piece of patchwork, 
or a posy of multifarious beauties, — that it must spring from an 
idea in the mind of the artist, as is exprest by Raphael in the 
passage quoted above (p. 273), will now be generally acknowl- 
edged by the intelligent; though it continually happens that 
clever young men, such as Cicero then was, fancy they shall daz- 
zle the sun, by bringing together a lamp from this quarter and 
that, with a dozen candles from others. Cicero himself, in his 
later writings on the same subject, followed a wiser course, and 
drew from the rich stores of his own experience and knowledge. 
But how congenial the other practice was to the age, is proved 
by Dionysius, who sets up the same story of Zeuxis, in the 
introduction to his Judgement on Ancient Writers, as an example 
it behoves us to follow, Koi rrjs eKelvcov yj/^vx^s anav6l^€a6ai, to 

KpClTTOV. 

On the other hand they who are gifted with a true philo- 
sophical spirit, who feel the weight of the mystery of the uni- 
verse, on whom it presses like a burthen, and will not let them 
rest, who are constrained by an inward necessity to solve the 
problems it presents to their age, will naturally have much 
sympathy with those in former ages who have been impelled 



452 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



by the same necessity to attempt the solution of similar prob- 
lems. They will, or at all events ought to regard them as 
fellow-workers, as brothers. The problems which occupied 
former ages, were only different phases of the same great prob- 
lem, by which they themselves are spell-bound. Whatever 
there was of truth in the solutions devised of yore, must still 
retain its character of truth, though it will have become partial, 
and can no longer be regarded as absolute. As in Science the 
later, more perfect systems incorporate all the truths ascertained 
by previous discoveries, nay, take these truths as the materials 
for further researches, so must it also be, under certain modifi- 
cations, in Philosophy. Hence to call a philosopher an Eclec- 
tic on this account is a mere misapprehension of the name, and 
of the laws which govern the development of the human mind. 
It is just as absurd, as it would be to call Laplace and Herschel 
Eclectics, because their speculations recognize and incorporate 
the results of the discoveries of Newton and Kepler and Galileo 
and Copernicus, nay, of Hipparchus and Ptolemy, so far as 
there was truth in them. 

On this topic there is a remarkable passage in the 12th 
Chapter of Coleridge's Biographia Liter aria, where the au- 
thor says that the doctrines of Leibnitz, " as hitherto inter- 
preted, have not produced the effect, which Leibnitz himself, 
in a most instructive passage, describes as the criterion of a 
true philosophy, namely, that it would at once explain and col- 
lect the fragments of truth scattered through systems apparently 
the most incongruous. The truth, says he, is diffused more 
widely than is commonly believed ; but it is often painted, yet 
oftener maskt, and is sometimes mutilated, and sometimes, alas, 
in close alliance with mischievous errours. The deeper how- 
ever we penetrate into the ground of things, the more truth we 
discover in the doctrines of the greater number of the philo- 
sophical sects. The want of substantial reality in the objects 
of the senses, according to the Sceptics, — the harmonies or 
numbers, the prototypes and ideas, to which the Pythagoreans 
and Platonists reduced all things, — the ONE and ALL of 
Parmenides and Plotinus, without Spinozism, — the necessary 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



453 



connexion of things according to the Stoics, reconcilable with 
the spontaneity of the other schools, — the vital phiIo.soi)hy of 
the Cabbalists and Hermetists, who assumed the universality of 
sensation, — the substantial forms and entelechies of Aristotle 
and the Schoolmen, — together with the mechanical solution of 
all particular phenomena according to Democritus and the re- 
cent philosophers, — all these we shall find united in one per- 
spective central point, which shews regularity and a coincidence 
of all the parts in the very object, which from every other point 
of view must appear confused and distorted. The spirit of sec- 
tarianism has been hitherto our fault, and the cause of our fail- 
ures. We have imprisoned our own conceptions by the lines 
which we have drawn in order to exclude the conceptions of 
others." 

The observations of Leibnitz here referred to are so interest- 
ing, — both as an expression of his own genius, which was 
always seeking after harmony and unity, and as the anticipa- 
tion of a truth which was to come out more distinctly in the 
subsequent expansion of philosophy, but which had to lie dor- 
mant for nearly a century after he uttered it, and which even 
now is recognized by few beyond the limits of the country where 
it was uttered, — that I will quote what he says on the subject. 
It occurs in his first letter to Remond de Montmort, written in 
1714, not long before the close of his long life of meditation, and 
is also pleasing as a record of the growth of his own mind. " J'ai 
tache de deterrer et de reunir la verite ensevelie et dissipee 
sous les opinions des differentes sectes des Philosophes ; et je 
crois y avoir ajoute quelque chose du mien pour faire quelques 
pas en avant. Les occasions de mes etudes des ma premiere 
jeunesse, m'y ont donne de la facihte. Etant enfant j'appris 
Aristote ; et meme les Scholastiques ne me rebuterent point ; 
et je n'en suis point fache presentement. Mais Platon aussi des 
lors, avec Plotin, me donnerent quelque contentement, sans parler 
d'autres anciens, que je consultai. Par apres etant emancipe des 
ecoles triviales, je tombai sur les Modernes ; et je me souviens que 
je me promenia seul dans un bocage aupres de Leipsic, appelle le 
Rosendal, a I'age de quinze ans, pour deliberer si je garderois 



454 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



les Formes substantielles. Enfin le Mecanisme prevalut, et me 
porta a m'appliquer aux Mathematiques. II est vrai que je 
n'entrai dans les plus profondes, qu'apres avoir converse avec 
M. Huygens a Paris. Mais quand je chercliai les dernieres 
raisons du Mecanisme, et des loix meme du mouvement, je fus 
tout surpris de voir qu'il etait impossible de les trouver dans les 
Mathematiques, et qu'il falloit retourner a la Metaphysique. 
C'est ce qui me ramena aux Entelechies, et du materiel au 
formel, et me fit enfin comprendre, apres plusieurs corrections 
et avancemens de mes notions, que les monades, ou les substances 
simples, sont lest seules veritables substances ; et que les choses 
materielles ne sont que des phenomenes, mais bien fondes et 
bien lies. C'est de quoi Platon, et meme les Academiciens pos- 
terieurs, et encore les Sceptiques, ont entrevu quelque chose ; 
mais ces messieurs, apres Platon, n'en ont pas si bien use que 
lui. J'ai trouve que le plupart des Sectes ont raison dans une 
bonne partie de ce qu'elles avancent, mais non pas tant en ce 
qu'elles nient. Les Formalistes, comme les Platoniciens, et les 
Aristoteliciens, ont raison de chercher la source des choses dans 
les causes finales et formelles. Mais ils ont tort de neghger les 
efficientes et les materielles, et d'en inferer, comme faisoit M. 
Henri Morus en Angleterre, et quelques autres Platoniciens, 
qu'il y a des phenomenes qui ne peuvent Stre expliques meca- 
niqueraent. Mais de I'autre cote les Materialistes, ou ceux qui 
s'attachent uniquement a la Philosophic mecanique, ont tort de 
rejetter les considerations metaphysiques, et de vouloir tout ex- 
pliquer par ce qui depend de I'imagination. Je me flatte d'avoir 
penetre 1' Harmonic des difFerens regnes, et d'avoir vu que les 
deux parties ont raison, pourvu qu'ils ne se choquent point ; que 
tout se fiiit mecaniquement et metaphysiquement en meme temps 
dans les phenomenes de la nature, mais que la source de la 
mecanique est dans la metaphysique. II n'etoit pas aise de de- 
couvrir ce mystere, parce qu'il y a peu de gens qui se donnent 
la peine de joindre ces deux sortes d'etudes." Vol. v. pp. 8, 9. 
Ed. Dutens. 

In his third Letter to Remond, Leibnitz recurs to the same 
subject. " Si j'en avois le loisir, je comparerois mes dogmes 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



455 



avec ceux des Anciens et d'autres liabiles liommes. La vcrite 
est plus repandue qu'on ne pense ; mais elle est trcs souvent 
fardee, et tres souvent aussi enveloppee, et meme afFoiblie, 
mutilee, corrompue par des additions qui la gatent, ou la ren- 
dent moins utile. En faisant remarquer ces traces de la verite 
dans les Anciens, ou, j^our parler plus generalement, dans les 
anterieurs, on tireroit Tor de la boue, le diamant de sa mine, et 
la lumiere des tenebres ; et ce seroit en a^ai perennis quaedam 
Philosophia. On peut meme dire, qu'on y remarqueroit quelque 
progres dans les connoissances. Les Orientaux ont de belles 
et de grandes idees de la Divinite. Les Grecs j ont ajoute 
le raisonnement et une forme de science. Les Peres de I'Eglise 
ont rejette ce qu'il y avoit de mauvais dans la Philosophic des 
Grecs ; mais les Scholastiques ont tache d'employer utilement 
pour le Christianisme, ce qu'il y avoit de passable dans la Phi- 
losophic des Payens. J'ai dit souvent aurum latere in stercore 
illo scholastico harhariei ; et je souhaiterois qu'on put trouver 
quelque habile homme verse dans cette Philosophic Hibernoise 
et Espagnole, qui cut de I'inclination et de la capacite pour en 
tirer le bon. Je suis stir qu'il trouveroit sa peine payee par 
plusieurs belles et importantes verites." p. 13. 

That Philosophy, in the last sixty years, has been advancing 
at no slow pace toward the grand goal, which Leibnitz descried 
from afar, by a Pisgah view of the land he himself was not 
destined to enter, will not be questioned by any one acquainted 
with the recent philosophers of Germany. One of the clearest 
proofs German Philosophy has exhibited of its being on the 
road toward the truth, has lain in this very fact, that it has been 
enabled to appreciate the philosophical systems of former ages, 
as they had never been appreciated previously. If we look, for 
instance, into Dugald Stewart's Historical Essay, we find no 
attempt even to do anything of the sort. As I have said above 
(p. 337), he merely selects a few remarks or maxims from the 
writings of preceding philosophers, such as at all resemble the 
observations of his own philosophy, or the received maxims of 
his own age, and takes no thought about anything else, nor 
even about the coherence of these remarks with the rest of the 



456 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



systems they belong to. On the other hand, if we turn to 
Ritter's History of Philosophy, or to Hegel's Lectures, — to 
mention two of the chief examples of what has been repeated 
in many others, — we see them endeavouring to estimate all 
prior systems according to their historical position in the pro- 
gressive development of human thought, to shew what truths it 
was the especial province of each to bring out, and how each 
fulfilled its appointed work. In England this method has been 
applied to the history of Science by Dr Whewell, to that of 
Philosophy in the History of Moral Philosophy publisht in the 
Encyclopedia Metropolitana. 

Now that this historical, genetical method of viewing prior 
systems of philosophy is something totally different from Eclec- 
ticism, nay, is the direct opposite to it, will not need further 
proof. But it is termed conceited and presumptuous, to pre- 
tend to know better than all the wisest men of former times, 
and to sit in judgement upon them. This however is sheer 
nonsense. Conceit and presumption may indeed shew them- 
selves in this, as in every other mode of uttering our thoughts : 
but there can hardly be a better corrective for those evil ten- 
dencies, than the attentive, scrutinizing contemplation of the 
great men of former times, with the view of ascertaining the 
amount of the truth they were allowed to discern, the power of 
the impulse they gave to the progress of the human mind. If 
w-e know more in some respects than they did, this itself is a 
ground of gratitude to them through whose labours we have 
gained this advantage, and of reverence for those who with 
such inferior means achieved so much. It is no way deroga- 
tory to Newton, or Kepler, or Galileo, that Science in these 
days should have advanced far beyond them. Rather is this 
itself their crown of glory. Their works are still bearing fruit, 
and will continue to do so. The truths which they discovered 
are still living in our knowledge, pregnant with infinite conse- 
quences. Nor will any one be so ready and able to do them 
justice, as he who has carefully examined what they actually 
accomplisht for the advancement of Science. So too will it be 
with regard to Socrates and Plato and Aristotle, to Anselm and 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



457 



Bacon and Leibnitz. The better we know and appreciate what 
they did, the humbler it must needs make us. Nay the very 
process of endeavouring faithfully and carefully to enter into 
the minds of others, as it can only be effected by passing out 
of ourselves, out of our habitual prepossessions and predilec- 
tions, is a discipline both of love and of humility. In this 
respect at all events there can be no comparison between 
such a Philosophy, and an exclusive dogmatical system, 
which peremptorily condemns whatever does not coincide 
with it. 

Of course this profounder Philosophy, which aims at tracing 
the philosophical idea through its successive manifestations, is 
not exempt from the dangers which encompass every other form 
of Knowledge, especially from that which is exprest by the sep- 
aration between the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life. 
My dear friend, Sterling, says, in one of his letters (p. xxxviii.) : 
" Cousin makes it the peculiar glory of our epoch, that it en- 
deavours to comprehend the mind of all other ages. But I fear 
it must be the tendency of his philosophy, while it examines 
what all other philosophies were, to prevent us from being any- 
thing ourselves. — We must live, not only for the past, but also 
for the present. Herein is the great merit of Coleridge : and 
I confess for myself, I would rather be a believing Jew or Pa- 
gan, than a man who sees through all rehgions, but looks not 
with the eyes of any." How far this censure may apply to 
Cousin, we need not enquire ; but there seems no reason why 
it should attach to that form of Philosophy, of which we have 
been speaking, more than to any other. In all speculation, of 
whatsoever kind, there is a centrifugal tendency, which requires 
to be continually counteracted and kept in check. This would 
appear to have been the peculiar work of Socrates in Greek 
philosophy, as it had been previously of Pythagoras, and as it 
was that of Bacon in Science. But, though the Tree of Knowl- 
edge is not the Tree of Life, the Tree, or rather the scrubby 
underwood of Ignorance is quite as far removed from it : nor 
shall we turn the Tree of Knowledge into it, by lopping oft' its 
20 



458 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



expanding, sheltering branches, which spread out on every side, 
and converting it into a Maypole. u. 



There are a number of points, with regard to which we un- 
derstand the ancients better than they understood themselves. 

Does this seem strange ? Mount a hill : will you not descry 
the outlines and bearings of the vallies or plains at its feet, more 
clearly than they who are living in the midst of them ? That 
which was positive among the ancients, their own feelings, the 
direct power which their religion, their political and social insti- 
tutions, their literature, their art exercised upon them, they 
undoubtedly understood far better than we can hope to do. 
But the relations in which they stand to other nations, and to 
the general idea of human nature, the particular phase of tha' 
idea which was manifested in them, the place which they occu- 
py in the progressive history of mankind, — and in like manner 
the connexion between their language, their institutions, thei 
modes of thought, their form of religion, of literature, of phi- 
losophy, of art, and those of other nations, anterior, contempo 
raneous, or subsequent, — of all these things we have far better 
means of judging, than they could possibly have. Thus they 
were more familiar w^ith their own country, with its mountain 
and dells and glens, its brooks and tarns, than any foreiner caa 
be : yet we have a clearer view of its geographical position 
with reference to the rest of the earth. 

Moreover such a general comparative survey will enable u 
to adjust the proportions of many things, which, in the eyes o 
persons living in the midst of them, would be exaggerated b 
propinquity, or coloured and distorted by occasional feelings. 
In fact the postulate of Archimedes is no less indispensable fo 
knowledge. To comprehend a thing thoroughly we need 
standing-place out of it. 

Such a TTov (ttS) has been supplied for us all by Christianity. 
Therefore Christian Philosophy and Christian Science have an 
incalculable advantage of position over every other form o 
knowledge. u. 



GUESSES AT TKUTH. 



459 



It might be allowable for a heathen to say of himself, with 
somewhat of selfcomplacency, that he was Nullius addictus 
jurare in verba magistri. As a body, when it is losing its unity, 
and resolving into its parts, is fast crumbling into nothingness, 
and as an ochlocracy is no more than a noisy prelude to anarchy, 
so is Polytheism to Atheism. Whenever we find a real relig- 
ious feeling in any ancient writer, we may also discern a dim, 
though perhaps scarcely conscious recognition of Unity, of one 
supreme Deity, behind and above all the rest, who permits the 
gods of Olympus to play round his feet, smiling on their sports, 
or, if they become too wanton and boisterous, checking them 
with a frown. For any moral influence on its votaries, the 
worship of many gods is scarcely more powerful than no wor- 
ship at all. 

Besides it was the misfortune of Roman literature, that, as in 

that of the French, there was in it 

No single volume paramount, no code, 
No master spirit, no determined road. 

Such must needs be wanting, where political or social interests 
predominate over those which are more purely intellectual. 
Neither Poetry, nor Philosophy will thrive, when anything is 
standing by to overshadow them. They lose their dignity, and 
cannot walk freely as the handmaids of any other queen than 
Religion. The Greeks, on the other hand, had such a " volume 
paramount," a volume as to which their greatest poets might 
boast that their works were merely fragments from its inex- 
haustible banquet. Whereas the Romans had nothing, with 
regard to which they could enjoy the comfortable feeling, that 
they might cut and cut and come again. Their dishes, like 
those of our neighbours, were kickshaws, which, having already 
been hasht up' a second time, were drained of their juices, and 
unfit for further use. If any of them became a standing dish, 
it was only, like artificial fruit, to be lookt at. 

This want of a nest-egg is a calamity which no people can 
get the better of. There is scarcely any blessing so precious 
for the mind of a nation, as the possession of such a great na- 
tional heirloom, a work loved by all, revered by all, familiar to 



460 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



all, from Avliich all classes for generation after generation draw 
their views of Nature and of Life, which thus forms a great 
bond of intellectual and moral sympathy amongst all, in which 
all ranks may meet, as in a church, and all may feel at home. 
How fortunate then are we in England, inasmuch as, — over 
and above that which, wherever it has not been withdrawn from 
the people by a shortsighted, narrowminded, selfseeking policy, 
is the " Volume Paramount," and the bond of union for all 
Christendom, — we have also the richest Eldorado of thought 
that man ever opened to man in the gold and diamond-mines of 
Sliakspeare ! Paradise Lost too may claim to be rankt as one 
of our volumes paramount, of our truly national works, which 
have mingled with the life-blood of the people. Indeed Erskine, 
I have been told, used to say, that, in addressing juries, he had 
found, there were three books, and only three, which he could 
always quote with effect, Shakspeare, Milton, and the Bible. 

Moreover Horace's boast was the simple, naked utterance of 
that Eclectic spirit, which I have been speaking of as charac- 
terizing his age, and which is always sure to prevail among such 
as are especially termed men of the world. Nor was it a less 
apt expression of his own personal character. For he was the 
prototype, and hence has ever been the favorite, of wits and 
fine gentlemen, of those who count it a point of goodbreeding 
to seem pleased with everything, yet not to be strongly affected 
by anything, nil admirari. As the chief fear of such persons 
is, lest they should dishonour their breeding by betraying too 
strong feelings on any matter, Horace's declaration just meets 
their wishes. The pleasantest of dilettanti, he could add, Quo 
me cunque rapit tempestas, deferor hospes, without any regret at 
the thought that everywhere he was a hospes, that nowhere had 
he a home. Chance was to him a more acceptable guide than 
any master ; and he drifted along before the wind and tide, re- 
joicing that he had no pole-star to steer by. 

In him, I say, such a boast might be excusable. But for a 
Christian moralist to take these lines as his motto seems strange- 
ly inappropriate. For we Christians are far happier than the 
poor guideless Heathens. We have a Master ; and we know 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



461 



that His words are always true, and that they will be true eter- 
nally. Above all, for Johnson to make such a parade of master- 
lessness, as he does by prefixing these lines to the Rambler ! for 
Johnson, who, whatever want of deference he might shew toward 
other masters, had one master ever close at his elbow, to whose 
words he was always ready to swear, a master too who never 
scrupled to try his patience by all sorts of wayward commands, 
— even himself, his own whims, his own caprices, his own im- 
perious wilfulness. In fact this is usually the case with those 
who plume themselves on their unwillingness to bear the yoke 
of any authority. They are mostly the slaves of a despot, and 
therefore spurn the notion of being the subjects of a law. They 
have a Puck within their breasts, who is ever leading them "up 
and down, up and down : " and, as he is " feared in field and 
town," both in town and field they stand alone. Or else he 
" drops his liquour in their eyes ; " and then the next thing they 
look upon, " Be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull. Or meddling 
monkey, or on busy ape. They will pursue it with the soul of 
love." Hence, though it is very true that Johnson was Nullius 
addictus jurare in verba magistri, — except indeed to his own 
words, — it was hardly becoming to make this state of sheer 
negativeness a matter of boast. If one is to boast at all, it 
should be grounded on something positive, on something imply- 
ing an act of the reasonable will, not on our being carried quo- 
cunque rapit tempestas, which can only land us in the Limbo of 
Vanities. 

Will it be deemed a piece of captiousness, if I go on to object, 
as others have done before, to the title of the Rambler ? But 
that too seems to have little appropriateness for a person who 
seldom rambled further than from one side of his armchair to 
the other, from one cell in his brain to another. His reading 
is indeed said to have been always very desultory ; so that one 
of his biographers thinks it questionable, whether he ever read 
any book entirely through, except the Bible. If this was in- 
deed the fact, it would form the best intellectual apology for his 
criticisms. At all events his habit arose from that peculiarity 
which marks all his writings, as well as all the anecdotes of 



462 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



him, his incapacity for going out of himsejf, and entering into 
the minds of others, his inability to understand and sympathize 
■with any form of human nature except his own. He only lookt 
into a book to contemplate his own image in it ; and when any- 
thing came across that image, he turned to another volume. 
This is not rambling, but staying at home in a home which is no 
home, inasmuch as a home must have some one beside oneself 
to endear and consecrate it. 

By some it may be thought that the misnomer of the Rambler 
receives a kind of justification from the circuitousness of the 
author's style. This however is not rambling : it would be live- 
lier, if it were. It merely rolls round, like the sails of a mill, 
ponderously and sonorously and monotonously, yet seldom grind- 
ing any corn. In truth it would seem constructed for the purpose 
of going round a thing, and round it, and round it, without ever 
getting to it. His sentences might be compared to the hoops worn 
by ladies in those days, and were almost equally successful in dis- 
guising and disfiguring the form, as well as in keeping you at a 
distance from it. In reading them one may often be puzzled to 
think how they could proceed from a man whose words in con- 
versation were so close and sinewy. But Johnson's strength, as 
well as his weakness, lay in his will ; and in conversation, when an 
object that irritated him stood before him, his words came down 
upon it, more like blows, than words. In reasoning on the 
other hand, in that which requires meditation or imagination, 
the will has little power, except so far as it has been exercised 
continuously in the formation and cultivation of the mind. A 
man cannot by a momentary act of the will endow himself with 
faculties and knowledge, which he does not possess already ; 
though he can make himself pour out words, the bigness of 
which shall stand in lieu of force, and their multitude in lieu of 
meaning. How such a style could gain the admiration which 
Johnson's gained, in an age when numbers of men and women 
wrote incomparably better, would be another grave puzzle, un- 
less one remembered that it was the age when hoops and 
toupees were thought to highten the beauty of women, and full- 
bottomed wigs the dignity of men. He who saw in his gla?? 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



4G3 



how his wig became his face and head, might easily infer that a 
similar full-bottomed, well-curled friz of words would be no less 
becoming to his thoughts. Nor did he miscalculate the effect 
upon his immediate readers. They who admired the hairy wig, 
were in raptures with the wordy one. u. 

Young men are perpetually told that the first of duties is to 
render oneself independent. But the phrase, unless it mean 
that the first of duties is to avoid hanging, is unhappily chosen ; 
saying what it ought not to say, and leaving unsaid what it 
ought to say. 

It is true, that, in a certain sense, the first of duties is to be- 
come free ; because Freedom is the antecedent condition for the 
fulfilment of every other duty, the only element in which a rea- 
sonable soul can exist. Until the umbilical chord is severed, 
the child can hardly be said to have a separate life. So long 
as the heart and mind continue in slavery, it is impossible for a 
man to offer up a voluntary and reasonable sacrifice of himself. 
Now in slavery, since the Fall, we are all born ; from which 
slavery we have to emancipate ourselves by some act of our 
own, halfconscious, it may be, or almost unconscious. By some 
act of our own, I say ; not indeed unassisted ; for every parent, 
every friend, every teacher is a minister ordained to help us in 
this act. But, though we cannot by our own act lift ourselves 
out of the pit, we must by an act of our own take hold of the 
hand which offers to lift us out of it. The same thing is im- 
plied in every act of duty ; which can only be an act of duty, 
so far as it is the act of a free, voluntary agent. Moreover, if 
we ascend in the scale of duties, we must also ascend in the 
scale of freedom. A person must have cast off the tyrannous 
yoke of the flesh, of its frailties and its lusts, before he can be- 
come the faithful servant of his country and his God. 

Hence we perceive that the true motive for our striving to 
set ourselves free is, to manifest our freedom by resigning it, 
through an act to be renewed every moment, ever resuming 
and ever resigning it ; to the end that our service may be en- 
tire, that the service of the hands may likewise be the service of 



4G4 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



the will ; even as the Apostle, being free from all, made him- 
self servant to all. This is the accomplishment of the great 
Christian paradox, Whosoever will he great, let him he a minis- 
ter ; and whosoever will he chief, let him he a servant. 

Nothing can be more thoroughly opposed to the sublime hu- 
mility of this precept, than the maxim which enjoins indepen- 
dence. At best Independence is a negative abstraction, and 
has merely assumed the specious semblance of reality, amid 
the multitude of indistinct, insubstantial words, which have 
been driven across our language from forein regions ; whereas 
Freedom is something positive. So far as our dictionaries, 
which in such matters are by no means safe guides, may be 
relied on, the word independence, in its modern acceptation, 
can hardly have come into use till after the E-evolution. The 
earliest instance of it cited is from Pope, but is such as shews it 
must already have been a familiar expression. Nor is it ill 
suited to that age of superficial, disjointed, unconnected thought, 
when the work of cutting off the present from the past began, 
and people first took it into their heads, that the mass of evil in 
the world was the result, not of their own follies and vices, but 
of what their ancestors had done and establisht. That such an 
unscriptural Avord should not occur in our Bible, is not surpris- 
ing : for Independence, as an attribute of man, if it be traced 
to its root, is a kind of synonym for irreligion. Nor, I believe, 
is it to be found in this sense in any writer of the ages when 
men were trained by the discipline of logic to think more closely 
and speak more precisely. Primarily however the word seems 
to have come from the Latinity of the Schoolmen, — for the 
Romans never acknowledged either the word or the thing sig- 
nified by it, — and to have been coined, like other similar terms, 
for the sake of expressing one of those negations, out of which 
Philosophy compounds her idea of God ; hereby confessing her 
inability to attain to a positive idea. Thus, in Baxter's Metho- 
dus Theologiae Christianae, God is said to be, with reference 
to causation, Noncausatus, Independens. In his Reasons of the 
Cliristian Religion, he says : " The first universal matter is not 
an uncaused, independent being. If such there be, its inactivity 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



4G5 



and passiveness shewetli it to want the excellency of indepen- 
dency T Jackson (B. vi. c. 3) speaks of philosophers, who 
" allot a kind of independent being to immaterial substances." 
In Minshew's Guide into the Tongues (lG2o), Independencie is 
explained by Absoluteness of oneself ^ without dependence on an- 
other^ which points to a like usage as already existing. 

In this sense Segneri writes: Vindependenza e un tesoro 
inalienahile di Dio solo. When thus used, the word expresses 
an attribute which belongs exclusively to the Deity, in the only 
way in which our intellect can express it, by a negation of its 
opposite. But, when applied to man, it directly contravenes 
the first and supreme laws of our nature, the very essence of 
which is universal dependence upon God, and universal inter- 
dependence on one another. Hence Leighton, speaking of 
disobedience, says (Serm. xv.) : " This is still the treasonable 
pride or independency^ and wickedness of our nature, rising up 
against God who formed us of nothing." With this our right- 
ful state Freedom is not irreconcilable : indeed, if our depend- 
ence is to be reasonable and voluntary. Freedom, as I have 
already said, is indispensable to it. Accordingly Shakspeare, 
in his Measure for Measure (Act iv. sc. 3), lias combined the 
two words : the Provost there replies to the Duke, / am your 
free dependent; where free signifies voluntary, willing. Now 
in a somewhat different sense we ought all to be free dependents. 
But nobody can be an independent dependent. As applied to 
man, independent can only have a relative sense, signifying that 
he is free from certain kinds of dependence. In this sense 
Cudworth often speaks of the heathen belief in several inde- 
pendent gods, that is, not absolutely, in the signification exem- 
plified above, but independent of each other. In this sense too 
the name was assumed by the religious sect who intended 
thereby both to express their rejection of all previously estab- 
lislit authority, and their notion that every particular congrega* 
tion ought to be insulated o^w.^ independent all others. So 
again the American war was not to assert the Freedom, but 
the Independence of America. Thus things came to such a 
pass, that Smollett wrote an ode to Independence^ calling it, or 
20* DD 



46G 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



her, or him, " Lord of the hon heart and eagle eye." Nay, 
even Wordsworth, in one of his early poems, after describing' 
the scenery round the Lake of Lucerne, wrote : " Even here 
Content has fixed her smiling reign. With Independence, child 
of high Disdain," a line scarcely less objectionable in point of 
taste, than as glorifying the child of such a parent. 

Moreover Freedom is susceptible of degrees, according to 
the capacity for Freedom in the person who attains to it. 
There is one Freedom in the peasant, who is unable to read, 
and whose time is M'ellnigh engrost by bodily labour, but who 
humbly reveres the holy words proclaimed to him on his one 
day of weekly rest ; and there is another Freedom in the poet, 
or philosopher, or statesman, or prince, who, with a full con- 
^ sciousness of the sacrifice he is making, well knowing what he is 
giving up and why, and feeling the strength of the reluctances 
he has to combat and overpower, increast as it is by the increast 
means of gratifying and pampering them, still in singleness of 
heart devotes all his faculties to the service of God in the vari- 
ous ministries of goodwill toward men. There is one Freedom 
in the maiden, who in her innocence scarcely knows of sin 
either its allurements or its perils, and whose life glides along 
gently and transparently amid flowers and beneath shade ; and 
another Freedom in the man, the stream of whose life must 
flow through the haunts of his fellow-creatures, and must re- 
ceive the pollution of cities into it, and must become muddy if 
it be turbulent, and can only preserve its purity by its majestic 
calmness and might. There was one Freedom in Ismene, and 
a higher and nobler in Antigone. There was one Freedom in 
Adam before his Fall, and another in St Paul after his con- 
version. Yet, though everywhere different, it is everywhere 
essentially the same. Although it admits of innumerable gra- 
dations, in every one it may be entire and perfect : and, wher- 
ever it is entire and perfect, all lesser distinctions vanish. One 
star may indeed appear larger and brighter than another : but 
they are all permitted to nestle together on the impartial bosom 
of Night, and journey onward for ever, one mighty inseparable 
family. Nay, those which seem the smallest and feeblest, may 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



4G7 



perchance in reality be the largest and most splendid ; only our 
accidental position misleads our judgement. 

Independence on the other hand neither admits of degrees, 
nor of equality, neither of difference, nor of sameness. In fact 
nothing in the universe ever was, or ever can be, or was ever 
conceived to be independent ; except forsooth the atoms of the 
Corpuscular Philosophy : and even this Philosophy was con- 
strained to acknowledge, that a hubbub of independent entities 
can produce nothing beyond a hubbub of independent entities. 
Hence, after rarifying the contents of its logical airpump, until 
there was no j^ossibility for anything to exist therein, it was 
forced to turn the cock, and let in a little air, for the sake of 
giving its atoms a partial impulse, and thus bringing them to 
coalesce and interdepend. 

Let it not be said that this is a fanciful quibble about words, 
and that Independence and Freedom mean the same thing in 
the end. They never did ; they do not ; they cannot. Inde- 
pendence is merely relative and outward : Freedom has its 
source within, in the depths of our spiritual life, and cannot sub- 
sist unless it is fed by fresh supplies from thence. Its essence 
is love ; for it is love that delivers us from the bondage of self. 
Its home is peace ; from which indeed it often strays far, but 
for which it always feels a homesick longing. Its lifeblood is 
truth, which alone can free us from the delusions of the world, 
and of our own carnal nature. Whereas the essence of Inde- 
pendence is hatred and jealousy, its home strife and warfare : 
it feeds upon delusions, and is itself the greatest. It was not 
until the true idea of Freedom, as not only reconcilable with 
Law and Order and the obedience and sacrifice of the Will, but 
requiring them imperatively to preserve it from running riot 
and perishing in wilfulness, was fading away, that the new 
word Independence was set up in its room. Since that time 
the apostles of Independence in political and social life, and 
of Atheism, that kindred negation, in religion, have so be- 
wildered their hearers and themselves, that it is become very 
difficult to revive the true idea of Freedom, and to make peo- 
ple understand how it is no way necessary, for the sake of be- 



4G8 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



coming free, to pull down the whole edifice of society, with all 
its time-hallowed, majestic sanctities, and to scatter its stones 
about in singleness and independence on the ground. Yet 
assuredly it would not be more absurd to call such a multitude 
of scattered, independent stones a house, than to suppose that a 
million, or twenty millions, of independent human beings, each 
stickling for his independence, and carrying out this princi- 
ple through the ramifications of civil and domestic life, can 
coalesce into a nation or a state. There is need of mortar : 
there is need of a builder, yes, of a master builder : there is 
need of dependence, coherence, subordination of the parts to the 
whole and to each other. ij. 



A lawyer's brief will be brief, before a freethinker thinks 
freely. u. 

. The most bigoted persons I have known have been in some 
things the most sceptical. The most sceptical notoriously are 
often the greatest bigots. How account for this ? except on 
the supposition that they are trees of the same kind, accidental- 
ly planted on opposite hillocks, and swayed habitually by the 
violence of opposite and partial gusts, which have checkt their 
growth, twisted their tops, and pointed their stag-heads against 
each other with an aspect of hatred and defiance. 

The prophet who was slain by a lion, had a nobler and more 
merciful death than Bishop Hatto, who was eaten up by rats. 
Neither the crab, that walks with its back foremost, nor the 
polypus, that fittest emblem of a democracy, ranks so high 
among animals, that we should be ambitious of imitating them 
in the construction of the body politic. Indeed it seems an in- 
stinct among animals, to hang down their tails ; except when 
the peacock spreads his out in the sunshine of a gala day, with 
its rows of eyes tier above tier, like the vista of a merry theatre. 
Unless Society can effect by education, what Lord Monboddo 
holds man to have done by willing it, and can get rid of her tail, 
it will be wisest to let the educated classes keep their natural 
station at the head. u. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



4G9 



At Avignon I saw some large batlis in the garden by the 
temple of Diana, built on the foundations of the old Roman 
ones. Does anybody bathe here now ? we askt ; for we could 
see no materials for the purpose. 

No; the guide answered. Before the Revolution^ the rich 
used to bathe here : but they wanted to keep the baths to them- 
selves ; and the poor wanted to come too ; and now nobody comes. 

What an epitome of a revolution ! 

Few books have more than one thought : the generality in- 
deed have not quite so many. The more ingenious authors of 
the former seem to think that, if they once get their candle 
lighted, it will burn on for ever. Yet even a candle gives a 
sorry, melancholy light, unless it has a brother beside it, to 
shine on it and keep it cheerful. For lights and thoughts are 
social and sportive : they delight in playing with and into each 
other. One can hardly conceive a duller state of existence than 
sitting at whist with three dummies : and yet many of our prime 
philosophers have seldom done anything else. u. 

To illustrate signifies to make clear. It would be well if 
writers would keep this in mind, and still better, if preachers 
were to do so. They would then feel the necessity of suiting 
their illustrations to their hearers. As it is, illustrations often 
seem to be stuck in for the same reason as shrubs round stables 
and outhouses, to keep the meaning out of sight. u. 

Apollo was content to utter his oracles, and left the hearers 
to make out their interpretation and meaning. So should his 
priests, poets. They should speak intelligibly indeed, but orac- 
ularly, even as all the works of Nature are oracular, embody- 
ing her laws, and manifesting them, but not spelling them in 
words, not writing notes and glosses on themselves, not telling 
you that they know the laws under which they act. They 
are content to prove their knowledge by fashioning themselves 
and all their courses according to it: and they leave man to 
decipher the laws from the living hieroglyphics in which they 
are written. u. 



470 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



The progress of knowledge is slow. Like the sun, we can- 
not see it moving ; but after a while we perceive that it has 
moved, nay, that it has moved onward. u. 

A cobweb is soon spun, and still sooner swept away. v. 

We all love to be in the right. Granted. We like exceed- 
ingly to have right on our side, but are not always particularly 
anxious about being on the side of right. We like to be in the 
right, when we are so ; but we do not like it, when we are in 
the wrong. At least it seldom happens that anybody, after 
emerging from childhood, is very thankful to those who are 
kind enough to take trouble for the sake of guiding him from 
the wrong to the right. Few in any age have been able to 
join heartily in the magnanimous declaration uttered by Socra- 
tes in the Gorgias : " I am one who would gladly be refuted, if 
I should say anything not true, — and would gladly refute an- 
other, should he say anything not true, — but would no less 
gladly be refuted than refute. For I deem it a greater advan- 
tage; inasmuch as it is a greater advantage to be freed from 
the greatest of evils, than to free another ; and nothing, I con- 
ceive, is so great an evil as a false opinion on matters of moral 
concernment." 

With some such persons indeed, Hermann says he has met, 
after speaking of the prevalence of the opposite spirit, in the 
Preface to his second Edition of the Hecuba : " Tum maxime 
irasci aliquem, quum se jure reprehensum videat, aliorum ex- 
emplis cognovi. Nec mirum : piget enim errasse : illud vero 
mirum, si quos sibimet ipsis irasci aequius erat, iram in eos 
effundunt, a quibus sunt reprehensi, quasi horum, non sua sit 
culpa, vidisseque errorem gravius peccatum sit, quam commi- 
sisse. Sed inveni tamen etiam qui veri quam suae gloriae studi- 
osiores non solum aequo animo et dissensionem et reprehensionem 
fervent, verum etiam ingenue conjiterentur errorem, atque adeo 
gratias agerent monenti'* In act such persons, I am afraid, are 
rare ; though in profession it is common enough to find people 
consenting to the declaration with which Sir Thomas Brown 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



471 



closes his Preface : " We shall only take notice of such, whose 
experimental and judicious knowledge shall solemnly look upon 
our work, not only to destroy of ours, but to establish of his 
own ; not to traduce or extenuate, but to explain and diluci- 
date, to add and ampliate. — Unto whom we shall not conten- 
tiously rejoin, or only to justify our own, but to applaud or 
confirm his maturer assertions ; and shall confer Avhat is in us 
unto his name and honour, ready to be swallowed in any worthy 
enlarger, as having acquired our end, if any way, or under any 
name, we may obtain a work so much desired^ and yet deside- 
rated of truth." 

But it is no way surprising that abstract truth should kick 
the beam, when weighed against any personal prejudice or pre- 
dilection ; seeing that, even in things of more immediate human 
interest, we are often beguiled by our selfishness into desiring, 
not that which is desirable in itself, but that which we have in 
some manner associated with our vanity and our personal credit. 
If a misfortune which a man has prognosticated, befalls his 
friend, the monitor, instead of sympathizing and condoling 
with him, will often exclaim with a taunting tone of triumph : 
Did n't I tell you so ? Another time you ^11 take my advice . . . 
as if any one would be willing to take advice from so cold- 
hearted and unfriendly a counsellor. There are those too, I 
am afraid, who would rather see their neighbours suffer, than 
their own forebodings fail. Jonah is not the only prophet of 
evil, whom it has displeased exceedingly, and who has been very 
angry, because God is a gracious God, and merciful, slow to 
anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil. 
The beautiful apologue of the gourd is still, and, I fear, ever 
will be, applicable to many. Indeed what are our most cherisht 
pleasures, for the loss of which we are the angriest, even unto 
death 2 but commonly such gourds, for which we have not la- 
boured, nor made them grow, which came up in a night, and per- 
isht in a night. On them we have pity, because they were a 
shadow over our heads to deliver us from our griefs, and be- 
cause their withering exposes us to the sun and wind. Yet let 
a man once have turned his face against his brethren, — and 



472 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



that, not for the wickedness of their hands or of their hearts, 
but merely for their holding some opinion or doctrine which he 
deems erroneous : it is not unlikely that he will be loth to see 
Nineveh spared, that great city, wherein are more than six-score 
thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand 
and their left hand, and also much cattle. u. 

The last words of the foregoing quotation remind me, that, 
in estimating the motives for and against any measure or meas- 
ures, we rarely, if ever, look beyond the manner in which men 
will be affected thereby. Our lordly eyes cannot stoop to no- 
tice the happiness or misery of the animals beneath us. Indeed 
no one, except God, cares for more than a small particle of the 
universe. In reckoning up the horrours of war, we never 
think about the sufferings of the 7nuch cattle. I shall not for- 
get a deserved rebuke which I received years ago from Wil- 
liam Schlegel. He had been speaking of entering Leipsic on 
the day after the battle ; and I askt him Avhether it was not a 
glorious moment, thoughtlessly, or rather thinking of the grand 
consequences which sprang from that victory, more than of the 
scene itself. Glorious ! he exclaimed : how could anybody think 
about glory, when crossing a plain covered for miles with thou- 
sands of his brethren, dead and dying ? And what to me was 
still more piteous, loas the sight of the poor horses lying about so 
helplessly and patiently, uttering deep groans of agony, with no 
one to do anything for them. 

Among the heroic features in the character of our great com- 
mander, none, — except that sense of duty which in him is 
ever foremost, and throws all things else into the shade, — is 
grander than the sorrow for his companions who have fallen, 
which seems almost to overpower every other feeling, even in 
the flush of a victory. The conqueror of Bonaparte at Water- 
loo wrote on the day after, the 19th of June, to the Duke of 
Beaufort : " The losses we have sustained, have quite broken 
me down ; and I have no feeling for the advantages we have 
acquired." On the same day too he wrote to Lord Aberdeen : 
" I cannot express to you the regret and sorrow with which I 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



473 



look round me, and contemplate the loss which I have sustained, 
particularly in your brother. The glory resulting from such 
actions, so dearly bought, is no consolation to me ; and I cannot 
suggest it as any to you and his friends : but I hope that it may 
be expected that this last one has Ijeen so decisive, as that no 
doubt remains that our exertions and our individual losses will 
be rewarded by the early attainment of our just object. It is 
then that the glory of the actions in which our friends and 
relations have fallen, will be some consolation for their loss." 
He who could write thus, had already gained a greater vic- 
tory than that of Waterloo : and the less naturally follows the 
greater. u. 

Most men work for the present, a few for the future. The 
wise work for both, for the future in the present, and for the 
present in the future. u. 

There are great men enough to incite us to aim at true great- 
ness, but not enough to make us fancy that God could not exe- 
cute His purposes without them. 

Man's works, even in their most perfect form, always have 
more or less of excitement in them. God's works are calm 
and peaceful, both in Nature, and in His word. Hence 
Wordsworth, who is above all men the poet of Nature, seldom 
excites the feelings, because he is so true to his subject. a. 

Crimes sometimes shock us too much ; vices almost always 
too little. 



As art sank at Rome, comforts increast. Witness the baths 
of Caracalla and Diocletian, 



We sever what God has joined, and so destroy beauty, and 
lose hold of truth. a. 



It is quite right there should be an Inquisition, It is quite 



474 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



right there should be autos-da-fe. The more the better, if they 
are but real ones. There should be an Inquisition and autos-da- 
fe in every country, yea, in every town, yea, on every hearth, 
yea, in every heart. The evil hitherto has been that they have 
been far too few. Every man ought to be an inquisitor ; every 
man ought to perform autos-da-fe ; often accompanied by death, 
not seldom by torture. Only his inquisition should be over 
himself ; only his autos-da-fe should consist in the slaying of 
his own lusts and passions, in the firy sacrifice of his own stub- 
born, unbelieving will. 

These Avould be truly autos-da-fe. It is no act of faith for 
me to offer up another as a victim. On the contrary it is an 
act of unbelief. It shews I have no faith in my brother's 
spiritual nature. It shews I have no faith in the power of God 
to work upon his heart and change it. It shews I have no 
faith in the sword of the Spirit, but hold the sword of the flesh 
to be mightier. 

Nor again can Faith exist in opposition to Love. Faith is 
the root of Love, the root without which Love cannot have any 
being. At times the root may be found, where the plarU has 
not yet grown up to perfection. But no hatred, or other evil, 
malign passion can spring from the root of Faith. Wherever 
they are found, they grow from unbelief, from w^ant of faith, — 
from want of faith in man, and from want of faith in God. 

Moreover such autos-da-fe would be sure of effecting their 
purpose, which the others never can. They would be accept- 
able to God. They would destroy what ought to be destroyed. 
And were we diligent in performing them, there would be no 
need of any others. 

This Inquisition should be set up in every soul. In some 
indeed it may at times be in abeyance. The happiest spirits 
are those by whom the will of God is done without effort or 
struggle. To this angelic nature however humanity can only 
approximate, and that too not at once, but by divers steps 
and stages, at every one of which new autos-da-fe are re- 
quired, u. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



475 



Some people seem to think that Death is the only reality in 
Life. Others, happier and rightlier minded, see and feel that 
Life is the true reality in Death. u. 

Ye cannot serve God and Mammon. Is it indeed so ? Alas 
then for England ! For surely we profess to serve both ; and 
few can doubt that we do indeed serve one of the two, as zeal- 
ously and assiduously as he himself can wish. But how must it 
be with our service to the other ? u. 



They who boast of their tolerance, merely give others leave 
to be as careless about religion as they are themselves. A wal- 
rus might as well pride itself on its endurance of cold. 



Few persons have courage enough to appear as good as they 
really are. a. 

The praises of others may be of use in teaching us, not what 
we are, but what we ought to be. a. 

Many people make their own God ; and he is much what 
the French may mean, when they talk of le hon Dieu, — very 
indulgent, rather weak, near at hand when we want anything, 
but far away out of sight when we have a mind to do wrong. 
Such a god is as much an idol as if he were an image of stone. 



The errours of the good are often very difficult to eradicate, 
from being founded on mistaken views of duty. a. 



Truly a river is a very wilful thing, going as it will, and 
where it will. 



How should men ever change their religion ? In its abase- 
ment honour prevents them, in its prosperity contempt. From 
their bights they cannot see, because they are so high, in their 
lowliness they dare not see, because they are too lowly. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



There is no being eloquent for atheism. In that exhausted 
receiver the mind cannot use its wings, — the clearest proof 
that it is out of its element. 



How different are summer storms from winter ones ! In 
winter they rush over the earth with all their violence ; and 
if any poor remnants of foliage or flowers have lingered behind, 
these are swept along at one gust. Nothing is left but desola- 
tion ; and long after the rain has ceast, pools of water and mud 
bear token of what has been. But when the clouds have 
poured out their torrents in summer, when the winds have spent 
their fury, and the sun breaks forth again in its glory, all things 
seem to rise with renewed loveliness from their refreshing bath. 
The flowers glistening with rain-drops smell sweeter than be- 
fore ; the grass seems to have gained another brighter shade of 
green ; and the young plants, which had hardly come into sight, 
have taken their place among their fellows in the borders ; so 
quickly have they sprung up under the showers. The air too, 
which may previously have been oppressive, is become clear 
and soft and fresh. 

Such too is the difference, when the storms of affliction fall 
on hearts unrenewed by Christian faith, and on those who abide 
in Christ. In the former they bring out the dreariness and 
desolation, which may before have been unapparent. The 
gloom is not relieved by the prospect of any cheering ray to 
follow it, of any flowers or fruit to shew its beneficence. But 
in the truly Christian soul, though weeping endure for a night, 
joy comes in the morning. A sweet smile of hope and love 
follows every tear ; and tribulation itself is turned into the 
chief of blessings. a. 

"We never know the true value of friends. While they live, 
we are too sensitive of their faults ; when we have lost them, 
we only see their virtues, A. 

So however ought it to be. When the perishable shrine has 
crumbled away, what can we see, except that which alone is 
imperishable ? u. 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



477 



How few are our real wants ! and liow easy is it to satisfy 
them I Our imaginary ones are boundless and insatiable, a. 

The king is the least independent man in his dominions, — 
the beggar the most so. A. 



Multajiunt eadem sed aliter, Quintilian (ii. 20. 10) has justly 
remarkt. I have spoken above (p. 387) of the efficacy of man- 
ner in oratory ; and every attentive observer must perpetually 
have noticed its inestimable importance in all the occasions and 
concerns of social life. So great indeed is its power, and so 
much more do people in general value what their friend feels 
for them, than what he does for them, that there are few who 
would not look on you more kindly, if you were to meet their 
request with an affectionate denial, than with a cold compli- 
ance. 

Nay, even when the materials are the very same, and when 
they are arranged in the selfsame order, much w^ill depend on 
the manner in which they are combined and groupt into sep- 
arate units. A?! ice-house is very different from a nice house ; 
and a dot will turn a million into one. 

A like thought is exprest in the following stanza, which 
closes a poem prefixt by Thomas Newton to the Mirror for 
Magistrates. 

Certes this world a stage may -well be called, 
Whereon is plaid the part of every wight: 
Some, now aloft, anon with malice galled 
Are from high state brought into dismal plight. 
Like counters are they, which stand now in sight 
For thousand or ten thousand, and anon 
Removed stand perhaps for less than one. 



The mind is like a trunk. If well packt, it holds almost 
everything ; if ill packt, next to nothing. 

To say No with a good grace is a hard matter. To say Yes 
with a good grace is sometimes still harder, at least for men. 
"With women perhaps it may be otherwise. I wonder how 



478 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



many have married for no other reason, than that they had not 
the strength of mind to say No. u. 



Discipline, like the bridle in the hand of a good rider, 
should exercise its influence without appearing to do so, should 
be ever active, both as a support and as a restraint, yet seem 
to lie easily in hand. It must always be ready to check or to 
pull up, as occasion may require ; and only when the horse is a 
runaway, should the action of the curb be perceptible. A. 



Many expressions, once apt and emphatic, have been so 
rubbed and worn away by long usage, that they retain as little 
substance as the skeletons of wheels which have made the 
grand tour on the Continent. They glide at length like smoke 
through a chimney, not even impinging against the roof of the 
mouth ; and after a month's repetition they leave nothing be- 
hind more solid or more valuable than soot. Words gradually 
lose their character, and, from being the tokens and exponents 
of thoughts, become mere air-propelling sounds. To counter- 
act this disastrous tendency, Boyle, it is said, never uttered the 
name of God, without bowing his head. Such practices are 
indeed liable to mischievous abuse : a superstitious value will 
be attacht to the outward act, even when it is separated from 
the inward and spiritual: and it is too well known that the 
eyes have often been ogling a lover, while the fingers have 
been telling Ave-Maries on a rosary. It may be too, that, 
among the educated, listlessness of mind is rather encouraged 
by any recurring formal motion of the body. Else there is a 
value in whatever may help us to preserve the freshness and 
elasticity of our feelings, and enable the heart to leap up at the 
sight of a rainbow in manhood and in old age, as it did in child- 
hood. Even the faults of our much abused climate are thus in 
many respects blessings. They gave a liveliness to our enjoy- 
ment of a fine day, such as cannot be felt between the Tropics. 

How then is our nature to be fitted for the joys of Paradise ? 
How can we be happy unceasingly, without ceasing to be hap- 
py ? How is satisfaction to be disentangled from satiety ? which 



GUESSES AT TRUTH. 



479 



now palls upon the heart and intellect, almost as much as upon 
the senses. A strange and potent transformation must be 
wrought in us. Our hearts must no longer be capricious : our 
im